MONTPELIER, Vt. — Democrat Howard Dean expanded health coverage in Vermont during his 11 years as governor, with dozens of small victories and one major defeat. The presidential hopeful and physician is using that record as the blueprint for the $88-billion national plan he will unveil today.
In a speech in New York, Dean will lay out a proposal that expands subsidized health care for children of the working poor as well as ensuring eligibility for parents up to a certain poverty level. His goal is coverage for some 30.9 million of the nation's estimated 41 million uninsured.
Much of what Dean is proposing is in effect in Vermont, which ranks high among the states in providing health insurance coverage. About 96% of Vermont children and 91% of adults have coverage. It also reflects a political truth of recent health-care reform efforts -- when major overhaul fails, focus on smaller steps.
Dean, an internist who had been working in a medical practice with his wife, became governor in 1991 and made access to health care a priority.
But one of his first initiatives, a sweeping package of changes akin to a single-payer system failed miserably in the 1994 legislative session.
For the rest of his tenure, Dean focused instead on small expansions of the existing health-care programs, including preventive care for children.