From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum and Liberty Matias
was the fourth candidate to speak at the Families USA Health Care Forum, following Kucinich this morning and Clinton and Edwards earlier this month. While Kucinich discussed the "is health insurance a right all Americans have or a privilege" argument, Biden countered, saying, "We are well beyond that argument." He stressed national health insurance is needed for America to be competitive in the global economy.
Biden's plan is not a universal health-care plan, but emphasizes a way for employers to more easily provide health care. The plan has three parts: savings with modernization; health insurance for every child in America; and catastrophic health-care coverage. Health insurance companies would not be required to pay for anything above $55,000 for catastrophic injuries or illnesses; the government would pay the rest. Biden also proposed opening federal health-care insurance options to the general public and allowing people to buy in to Medicare at age 55.
Biden differs from the rest of the Democratic field because he does not require mandates. By bringing in catastrophic health insurance, Biden says he believes he keeps employers wanting to stay involved (since 60 percent of Americans covered are covered by their business) and health insurance costs lower for the American public.
Like Clinton, Biden said illegal immigrants would not be covered. "No undocumented alien would be covered under what I propose here," Biden said. "Instead, deal with it through immigration bills, not health care."
When asked about the Republicans' plans, Biden admitted he does not know much about their plans. But he took the opportunity to swipe Romney. "I honest to gosh don't know Romney's plans," he said. "I know what he's done in Massachusetts. He seems to run into that or run away from that depending on his audience."
Like many of his Democratic rivals, Biden's plan costs between $90 billion and $120 billion: $50 billion for catastrophic health insurance; $13 billion more for SCHIP; $18 billion to $20 billion for sliding scale of access to federal employees' health insurance; and $18 billion to $20 billion for those who want to buy into Medicare at age 55.
Before leaving, however, Biden made clear that foreign policy tops his list of priorities, not health insurance. "To be completely honest," Biden said, "if God said I could solve one thing and one thing only, I would pick foreign policy and solve the war in Iraq." On his way out, Biden told panelists, "We ought to do this on foreign policy."
*** UPDATE *** The Biden campaign clarifies that there are actually four parts to Biden's plan as detailed on the campaign's Web site: (1) Cover all Children; (2) Access for Adults; (3) Reinsurance For Catastrophic Cases; (4) Encouraging Prevention and Modernization.