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Clinton divides opinion with universal healthcare plan for USA

US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has unveiled her plan to introduce a scheme to bring in health insurance for all Americans – but critics say the scheme will involve too much government control.

Mrs Clinton, who is battling to receive the Democratic party nomination for the elections, has launched her American Health Choices Plan which she says will “secure, simplify and ensure choice in health coverage for every American”. She claims it is “finally addressing the needs of the 47 million uninsured and the tens of millions of workers who fear they could be one pink slip away from losing their health coverage”.

“If you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans without coverage or if you don’t like the coverage you have, you will have a choice of plans to pick from and you’ll get tax credits to help pay for it,” she said. “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. It’s a plan that works for America’s families and America’s businesses, while preserving consumer choices.”

The tone of the new plan appears to differ from Mrs Clinton’s attempts in the 1990s, when her husband was president, to overhaul healthcare in the USA, a bid that failed amid accusations that it would have stopped individuals from choosing their own policies and forced employers to provide coverage to their workers.

She has some heavyweight supporters, including former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, who said that Mrs Clinton has “crafted a thoughtful plan that builds on the existing system of private insurance and preserves consumer choices”. He added that it offered “affordable health care to the 47 million uninsured Americans without creating a new bureaucracy, and most importantly, it is achievable”.

With an estimated cost of $110bn a year, the plan would be financed largely by rolling back President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for Americans who earn over $250,000 a year and by savings in the healthcare system. However, critics have been queuing up to dismiss the plan and Mrs Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic nomination were not overly enthusiastic either.

Barack Obama said the proposal resembles one he put forward last spring, although he said: “My universal healthcare plan would go further in reducing the punishing cost of healthcare than any other proposal that’s been offered in this campaign.” John Edwards claimed: “If you’re going to negotiate universal healthcare with the same powerful interests that killed it before, your proposal isn’t a plan, it’s a starting point.”

On the Republican side, Katie Levinson, communications director for candidate Rudi Giuliani, said: “If you liked Michael Moore’s Sicko, you’re going to love HillaryCare 2.0. Senator Clinton’s latest health scheme includes more government mandates, expensive Federal subsidies and more big bureaucracy – in short, a prescription for an increase in wait times, a decrease in patient care and tax hikes to pay for it all.”

PharmaTimes 18/9/2007