In a policy speech in Iowa today, Democratic presidential candidate Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) outlined his proposed health insurance plan. First Richardson called for universal health care, “Despite Republican hand-wringing about the cost of universal care, it is clear that the cost of doing something — in lives and dollars — pales in comparison to the cost of doing nothing. We cannot afford a healthcare system that doesn’t cover every American. The cost to our economy and the well-being of our people is just too high. Today, we as a nation need to be responsible stewards of the health of our children and parents, our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives.”

Then Richardson criticized the Bush health care plan, “The response of the Bush Administration to the healthcare crisis has been predictably perverse. Not content to sit back and do nothing, President Bush is now threatening to veto the S-CHIP legislation, which would effectively force states to drop coverage for up to a million children. Let’s be clear: right now, President Bush’s health care plan is to eliminate the health coverage of nearly a million children. That’s not policy, its punishment. We need a government that makes it easier, not harder, to keep our kids healthy. We need a President who believes that every American should have access to quality healthcare. Every American. Period. But we should also remember that good intentions are not a policy. We need a common-sense, American solution to this American problem. We need a system that works.”

He described his plan as being based on personal choice and common sense. “My plan is built on common-sense principles. We have to remember the virtue of personal responsibility, but we cannot forget we’re all in this together. We need to recognize that choice is good, but only if there are good choices for everyone. I believe that your health and the health of your loved ones should not depend on your station in life. All Americans deserve quality healthcare, whether you’re a ditchdigger or a CEO, or a bus driver or a teacher, or a doctor. Even the rich suffer the poverty of sickness. Cancer and diabetes don’t ask for bank statements before they strike. And so, first, we guarantee coverage for all Americans. The path to universal health coverage will not be easy, but it is both the right and righteous thing to do.”

He also discussed the economic side of the health care crisis, “Universal healthcare is not only a moral imperative, it is also an economic imperative. The lack of guaranteed, quality healthcare coverage costs us up to 130 billion dollars each year in lost productivity. By 2010 the average family that does have insurance will pay an extra 15 hundred dollars to cover those that don’t.” He said that his plan doesn’t create a new bureaucracy or establish a one size fits all system. “My plan builds on existing models to rapidly expand coverage. My plan does not build new bureaucracy. The last thing we need between patients and doctors is another sticky web of red tape. And we don’t need a one-size-fits-all system — Americans deserve better than that. My plan offers five effective options for delivering quality coverage: plans for veterans, lower-income children and families, young adults, Americans 55 to 64, and working families and small businesses.”

He went on talk about the components of his plan. “Under my plan, we will expand Medicare as a choice for Americans 55 to 64. This is just plain common sense. New research from the New England Journal of Medicine shows that this could reduce costs by ensuring that older adults get the cancer screening and other preventive services that they need…Young adults up to age twenty-five will be given the option of keeping their family coverage regardless of student status. Too many young people are left excluded and vulnerable as they transition into adulthood….With my plan, lower-income children and families will obtain coverage through expanded Medicaid and S-CHIP programs…I will create a Heroes Health Card that provides veterans with the care they deserve, where they need it, without bureaucratic hassles. At the same time, we will strengthen the VA system by guaranteeing funding from year to year, so that they can directly access the high-quality care they were promised.” 

Richardson said that his plan would require everyone to have coverage by the end of his first term. Employers would be required to contribute to their employees’ coverage, and heath insurance companies would be required to cover everyone, not just the healthy. He also would offer a tax credit to help people pay for coverage, and limit the amount of interest credit card companies can charge on medical expenses charged to credit cards. He also said that he would cut costs in the health care system by requiring insurance companies to spend less on administration and 85% on direct care. He would also modernize medical technology, and allow Medicare to negotiate directly for prescription drugs. 

The governor would get junk food out of schools and ban smoking in all workplaces nationwide. He also listed six “common sense” steps to improving care. “First, I will ensure that health care providers have the tools they need. These include electronic medical records and reimbursement for providing proven preventive care…Second, I will promote evidence-based care. I will form a public-private partnership to research the comparative effectiveness of new drugs, devices, tests and treatments…Third, I will improve patient safety…Fourth, we need to expand our healthcare workforce, including more primary care providers…Fifth, I will promote chronic disease and mental health management…Sixth, I would reduce healthcare disparities based on race and ethnicity.”

Gov. Richardson concluded by saying, Today, I have tried to lay out the principles, objectives, and detailed methods that I think should guide healthcare in America. My plan provides choices — including the choice to keep your current coverage — and existing programs to expand coverage options. We reduce the costs of healthcare for all and we pay for universal coverage by creating savings, not raising taxes. We reduce bureaucracy and administration and invest in quality of care. As with any worthwhile investment, my plan will require capital up front — about 110 billion dollars per year. By making healthcare more coordinated, safe, and efficient; by investing in health information technology; and by spending what we have wisely in the ways I have described, my plan will save us up to 110 billion dollars every year….For the good of our nation, now must be the time.”

This was an interesting speech by Governor Richardson, because his plan is the first that I could actually passing the Congress and becoming law. Bill Richardson seems to get it. We don’t need to blow up the whole health care system. We just need to make it more accessible and affordable for everyone. His plan doesn’t tinker with those who are happy with their insurance. Instead, it is designed to cover those who don’t currently have coverage. I think the insurance companies would fight this tooth and nail, and there is no way that a nationwide work place smoking ban would be constitutional, but Richardson understands the need to address the problem areas in the U.S. healthcare system. This plan gets a thumbs up from me. 

Full text or Richardson speech 

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 7:00 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at


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