Lieberman unveils health care plan in New Hampshire

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(Host) Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman unveiled a plan to provide health care to all Americans Tuesday afternoon at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Lieberman wants to establish new federal insurance pools for people who can’t afford to purchase traditional private coverage.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Lieberman outlined the details of his plan to a group of roughly 150 health care professionals. The Connecticut senator says the goal of his plan is to provide universal coverage using the existing public-private insurance model.

Under the proposal, Medicaid would be expanded to provide coverage to all people under 25. The key to the plan is a provision that Lieberman says will encourage small businesses to offer health care coverage to their employees. This is accomplished by creating federal insurance pools, which would be administered by private health insurance companies.

These pools would make a variety of benefit programs available at different premium levels, and tax credits would be available for companies and individuals who can’t afford the coverage:

(Lieberman) “When millions of people are uninsured it not only deprives them of the kind of on going preventive treatment and care that they deserve, it strains our system, it strains our hospitals, it drives up our costs, it dislocates costs. Of course it does a deep injustice to our best humanitarian values.”

(Kinzel) Lieberman also wants to allocate $15 billion a year to a new program that he calls the Center for Cures. He likened this effort to putting a man on the moon:

(Lieberman) “To doing what may seem na ve and idealistic, but I’m convinced is not: finding cures to the chronic diseases, some of them that afflict the 100 million people in this country and consume more than 3/4 of the health care costs of our nation. To me, I can’t think of anything more exciting that I would want as president to get started and to accomplish.”

(Kinzel) Lieberman also supports legislation allowing individuals to purchase prescription drugs from Canada:

(Lieberman) “This shopping across national lines has a kind of outcry – it’s not quite the Boston Tea Party, but it has aspects like that. And there is a fundamental inequity here. And again I’m not anti prescription drug companies in that sense. The inequity is that because other countries have adopted price control laws on drugs, like Canada, we in our consumption are being forced to pay pretty much the whole cost of research. It’s not fair.”

(Kinzel) Lieberman says he hopes Congress will adopt a Medicare drug proposal in the coming weeks, but he’s concerned that a final compromise may not provide sufficient coverage.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

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