- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 9, 2004

SEATTLE — Teresa Heinz Kerry campaigned here and across the country all week outlining her husband’s promise to offer health care to all children, to reduce insurance premiums and to create a “catastrophic” account for health emergencies.

The wife of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry listened to stories about skyrocketing health care costs and shrinking benefits and pledged that his $75 billion plan would reduce annual premiums by $1,000 within one year.

“John has a very brilliant plan — a genuine American plan,” Mrs. Kerry told audiences. “It’s not a Canadian plan, not a British plan, not national health or state health. It’s a program of choices and of market and behavior incentives.”

The Kerry proposal calls for removing all children from state Medicaid and putting them on a federal Medicaid system, saving states $2 billion and ensuring that all children have health care, an idea that Mrs. Kerry says is popular with the nation’s governors.

The Massachusetts Democrat’s plan would create a “catastrophic” account that pays 75 percent of costs associated with any medical procedures that cost more than $50,000. To qualify, participants must commit to “wellness,” she said.

Mrs. Kerry said such accounts would help companies remain competitive and avoid layoffs.

“We have to have health care that will never again be a cause for an American to lose his or her job,” she said. “To lose your job and your health care is a double whammy no human being deserves and no self-respecting person wants, either in their company or in their life.”

Mrs. Kerry said her husband wants every American to have access to the same health care plan that is available to U.S. senators.

The more people who join that federal plan, the cheaper the premiums, she said.

Under the plan, small businesses, family farms and the self-employed would receive a 50 percent tax credit to help them afford insurance, she said.

The Kerry campaign estimates that the plan would cost $75 billion. Republicans say the cost would be much higher.

According to the Bush campaign, Mr. Kerry’s plan actually would cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years and will require a tax increase for all Americans.

Campaign officials say that Mr. Kerry’s plan “includes few incentives to control health care costs” and that “the only way they can possibly pay for their plan is through raising taxes on individuals, small businesses and families.”

Mrs. Kerry said the plan would be paid for by cutting tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs and give tax cuts to companies that “have a hard time competing” in the United States. Additional funding for the plan could come from cutting $50 billion from the $350 billion spent on health care management, she said.

To control prescription-drug costs — which she called “dreadful” and “beyond being a joke” — Mrs. Kerry said her husband will work with drug companies and “give them incentives to do the right thing.”

Mrs. Kerry criticized the Bush administration for a recent 17 percent increase in Medicare premiums and said the Medicare prescription-drug bill passed by Congress last year “cheated seniors.”

So far this week, Mrs. Kerry has outlined her husband’s plan to union workers at a Teamsters hall in Pittsburgh, to a crowd of about 150 at the North Central Community Health Center in St. Louis and at the Eastgate Public Health Center outside of Seattle.

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