Richardson's Health Plan Wouldn't Raise Taxes

Barack Obama tests the
Barack Obama tests the "Ice Cream Capital of the World" claim of Le Mars, Iowa. Tomorrow, African American journalists meeting in Las Vegas will discuss whether he's "black enough." (By Charlie Neibergall -- Associated Press)
Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Richardson's Health Plan Wouldn't Raise Taxes

Bill Richardson joined the health-care policy fray yesterday, offering his own plan for universal coverage and taking a veiled shot at his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination -- even though the main elements of his plan resemble proposals presented by other candidates.

Speaking in Iowa, the New Mexico governor said he would provide coverage for the 45 million Americans who currently lack it through a combination of steps: expanding Medicare eligibility to people as young as 55, letting people keep their parents' coverage up to age 25, expanding coverage for children via Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, and providing a sliding-scale tax credit for people buying their own coverage. Under his plan, all Americans would be required to get health insurance.

Richardson says he could do all this without tax increases -- the proposal's $110 billion annual cost would be covered by making health-care delivery more efficient, allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug costs and requiring businesses that do not provide health insurance to contribute toward helping the uninsured buy coverage.

"We cannot afford a health-care system that doesn't cover every American," he said. "The cost to our economy and the well-being of our people is just too high."

Plans offered by both John Edwards and Barack Obama, like Richardson's plan, would require employers who do not provide coverage to contribute to covering the uninsured. And Edwards, like Richardson, would make health insurance mandatory.

The major difference among the plans, though, is that Richardson says he could pay for his through savings and efficiencies, without raising taxes. Both Edwards and Obama say that savings alone won't be enough and that they would pay the difference by letting President Bush's tax cuts on the wealthy expire. Many health-care experts say it is all but impossible to provide universal coverage without raising taxes.

Richardson disagrees. "We will not need to raise taxes," he wrote in an op-ed in the Quad-City Times. "By streamlining the system, increasing efficiency, and asking everyone to pay their fair share, we can make accessible, affordable health care a reality for everyone."

-- Alec MacGillis


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