- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 24, 2007

LAS VEGAS (AP) — John Edwards said yesterday he will definitely stay in the presidential race, trying to reassure voters and donors that he can handle the dual pressure of the campaign and his wife’s cancer diagnosis.

At a Democratic presidential forum focused on health care, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina pressed his rivals to provide a detailed plan to cover the nation’s uninsured — estimated at about 47 million — and describe how they will pay for it.

His chief competitors, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, did not rule out the possibility that they would follow his lead with a plan requiring a tax increase, but they provided no specifics.

“I have not foreclosed the possibility that we might need additional revenue in order to achieve my goal, but we shouldn’t underestimate the amount of money that can be saved in the existing system,” Mr. Obama said when asked whether he would raise taxes to reach his goal of universal coverage by the end of his first term.

Mrs. Clinton did not say whether she is considering a tax increase, but said she cannot see putting more money into what she described as a broken system. She said she is committed to succeeding where she failed with the health care plan she crafted in her husband’s first term in the White House.

“We’re going to change the way we finance the system by taking away money from people who are doing well now,” Mrs. Clinton said. Asked who she was referring to, she mentioned insurance companies.

The forum was sponsored by the Service Employees International Union and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a Washington-based policy group.

It took place two days after Mr. Edwards announced that the breast cancer his wife thought she had beaten had returned, this time in her bones. He pointed out his wife, Elizabeth, sitting in the front row and said they both understand that dealing with their personal struggle will require “a focus and a maturity.”

“One of the reasons that I want to be president of the United States is to make sure that every woman and every person in America gets the same things that we have,” Mr. Edwards said. His plan would require employers to provide insurance and individuals to have it at a cost of $90 billion to $120 billion.

He said any politician who says he or she can provide universal health care and other promises while eliminating the federal deficit is not being honest.

“They’ve probably got a bridge in Brooklyn they want to sell you, too,” Mr. Edwards said to laughter and applause. “I just don’t think it can be done.”

No other candidate has given a cost estimate. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, however, said he could provide universal care in his first year as president without raising taxes.

Mr. Richardson said his plan would include a tax credit for low-income people who need coverage and prevention strategies such as a nationwide smoking ban like the one he signed in New Mexico. He said he would pay for his plan in large part by ending the war in Iraq and shifting the military spending to human needs — an idea that won loud applause.

Connecticut Sen. Christopher J. Dodd said his plan would require a tax increase by repealing President Bush’s cuts to the top 2 percent of income earners.

Ohio Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel promoted a single-payer universal health care system.

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