Moseley Braun, Edwards Join Health Plan Debate

Published July 1, 2003

Moseley Braun: My Plan Is “Radical”

Democratic Presidential hopeful and former Illinois Senator Carol Moseley Braun is in the early stages of developing a “radical” and “ambitious” health care plan designed to cover the uninsured and provide prescription drug coverage for seniors.

In an interview with The Hill, a congressional newspaper, Moseley Braun said she intends to “decouple” health insurance from employment because many people are unemployed, self-employed, or work for small businesses where they cannot obtain health insurance.

The former senator also said she would offer a universal, comprehensive health plan modeled after the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program. Moseley Braun asserted insurance companies should be payers only, and should not be in the health care policy-making business.

In an attempt to reduce the government’s health care bureaucracy, Moseley Braun would, in her words, “add an ambitious” twist to her reform approach by combining different payment systems, including Medicare and Medicaid. She offered no details.

To pay for this new health care system, Moseley Braun said she would raise income taxes and eliminate “employment taxes” such as the Medicare payroll tax. “I haven’t run the numbers yet,” she acknowledged.

While admitting every U.S. resident “gets health care now,” Moseley Braun said “the way we pay for it is out of whack.” She intends to unveil her complete plan in early fall.

Edwards: My Plan Is “Focused”

Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina), also stumping for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination, is also now touting a health care plan. Edwards called prescription drugs “one of the largest factors driving up health costs” and has proposed ways to lower prices.

Seven of nine Democratic candidates have advanced plans for addressing the rising cost of health insurance premiums. Edwards’ proposal is notable in its narrow focus on prescription drug costs.

Accusing pharmaceutical manufacturers of unfair dealings with consumers, Edwards said his plan would:

  • Hold pharmaceutical drug advertising to higher standards of accuracy.
  • Stop “backroom deals” between drug companies and the pharmacy benefits managers hired by health plans to negotiate for bulk prices, and mandate that any negotiated price breaks be passed on to consumers.
  • Give government more latitude to negotiate lower bulk prices for the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
  • Launch a comprehensive Justice Department investigation of drug costs paid by the government. Create fines and penalties for companies that overcharge.
  • Close legal loopholes that allow drug companies to extend patents and keep cheaper generics off the market.
  • Establish a commission to review patent laws and recommend changes.

Edwards is quoted in a June 6 Associated Press wire story saying the nation must decide “whether we put consumers or corporate interests first.” He added, “We need the pharmaceutical industry. They develop therapies that save people’s lives and medicines that improve our quality of life, and they deserve a good profit for that important work. But they don’t deserve to inflate that profit by stifling competition, gouging consumers, and cutting secret deals–all at the expense of patients and taxpayers.”

The Los Angeles Times reported Edwards wants the federal government to provide seniors with a prescription drug benefit administered by Medicare, rather than by private health plans. Edwards said he would “impose unilateral price reductions for Medicare purchases” of prescription drugs in the event Medicare cannot negotiate adequate discounts with pharmaceutical companies.

According to campaign aides, Edwards will introduce a much broader proposal to expand access to health insurance in July.

Conrad F. Meier is managing editor of Health Care News. His email address is [email protected].