Biden Unveils Plan To Give All Children, Adults Access To Health Care

Tuesday, October 23rd 2007, 9:37 am
By: News On 6

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday released a plan that would provide all children and adults access to health coverage, but stops short of mandating universal coverage.

Biden's plan would also improve coverage for catastrophic illnesses, modernize the health care system and encourage wellness, and would cost an estimated $110 billion, his campaign said.

``Getting this done will require the kind of experience and leadership that comes from years of success corralling bipartisan support for numerous issues,'' Biden said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. ``I have that experience and it will prove invaluable when I am president.''

The Delaware senator, who was on a weeklong campaign swing through Iowa, was scheduled to end his trip by unveiling his plan during a news conference in Des Moines on Tuesday afternoon.

Biden said that if he is elected, he would bring together government workers, health care providers, labor leaders and businesses in the first three months of his administration to work on a plan for affordable, universal health care.

To provide health coverage for uninsured children, Biden proposes expanding the State's Children Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, to at least 300 percent of the poverty level _ or about $61,950 for a family of four, and raising the coverage age to at least 21. Families that don't meet the poverty criteria would be able to purchase coverage under the program.

Currently, SCHIP provides government-subsidized health insurance to low-income families, and the vast majority of the 6.6 million participants are children. Last week, the House failed to override President Bush's veto of a bill that would increase spending on the program to $60 billion over five years, double what President Bush has proposed.

Biden's plan also aims to encourage wellness among children by eliminating co-payments for physicals, vision and hearing screenings, dental checkups and vaccinations, no matter their income level.

For adults, Biden wants to allow uninsured Americans to buy-in to a program like the health insurance program that members of Congress and federal employees get. Small businesses would be included in the program, sharing their costs with the government.

To get more people between the ages of 55 and 65 insured, Biden wants to allow them to buy-in to the Medicare plan. He said giving people a chance to get health care and treatment earlier could save on Medicare costs in the long run.

Biden also wants to make sure that families aren't devastated by major health expenses, and proposes what he calls a reinsurance system for such catastrophic costs.