Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Priorities

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. was hospitalized Monday after suffering a seizure. He underwent a thorough neurological evaluation and is expected to make a full recovery. Roberts' medical workup probably included “a good M.R.I., CAT scan and EEG.” How fortunate that Roberts has federal health insurance to cover his hospitalization, tests and ongoing care.

We should all be so lucky.
The U.S. is the richest country in the world, so there's no reason we shouldn't all have health care, living wages, secure retirements, etc. It all boils down to "Priorities" according to WorkingLife TV's inaugural film, a documentary filmed during the first few days of John Edwards' Road to One America poverty tour.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Taxpayers come through for DeVos family

The Orlando Magic will be getting a new $480 million arena by 2010 as part of a $1.1 billion downtown development plan. The DeVos family, owners of the Magic, pledged $158 million toward the project and agreed to cover any cost overruns. The remaining cost will be covered by a tourist tax.

The team stands to
gain huge profits -- perhaps tens of millions more than it earns now -- from selling luxury suites, advertising, etc.

My reaction? Let me quote snarky Mike from AOL's FanHouse:
I, for one, will be able to sleep better at night knowing that the citizens of Orlando are coming through for Richard DeVos, who has a net worth of $3.5 billion and is only the 73rd most wealthy person in the U.S. I mean, if this guy was among the top 50 wealthiest people in the country, maybe he could afford to build his own arena, but 73rd? I mean, he's just a few billion dollars away from waiting in line for free milk and government cheese.
Just what the world needs...another wealthy Republican who can't make it alone without help from taxpayers.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Higher drug co-pays no panacea

Passing along higher co-pays on prescription drugs doesn't save money according to a recent study at Carnegie Mellon University.

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
"What most employers don't consider is that increased co-pays on drugs may lead to an increase in other types of health care," said William B. Vogt, associate professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon. "Not all savings are really savings. They are offset by other types of spending." [...]

When co-pays rise, employees react by buying fewer drugs, the study confirms. That saves money for the employer.

But it also prompts employees to rely on health care "substitutions" to counter the effects of less medication. The study found that higher co-pays lead to more outpatient care, such as doctor or emergency room visits.

The findings suggest that increasing co-pays "may not be as effective a mechanism for controlling spending as previously thought."
The study used information from nine national corporations and a half-million people and concluded that "35 percent of corporate savings on prescription drugs "are substantially offset" by increases in other medical spending, including outpatient care." Other trade-offs could include losing good employees, a less healthy work force and increased absenteeism.

So, what's the bottom line?
"It confirms what we all expected but could not demonstrate -- that encouraging people to take their medicine prevents long-term complications and ultimately can save a substantial amount of money."
This is just one more reason corporations should be aligning behind the push for universal health care with prescription coverage.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Is another Republican about to be embroiled in scandal?

Down With Tyranny is asking if House Republican leader, Representative John Boehner, is the next GOP pervert to get caught up in the DC prostitution scandal?

Via DCCC, the Wall Street Journal editorialized last year that "Boehner stands for more of the same." Do you think they were talking about values?

Republicans flip-flop on expanding health care for children

Democrats in Washington want to expand health coverage for low-income kids, but President Bush says he'll veto any such legislation because he fears it might lead the nation "down the path to government-run health care for every American." It appears Senate Republicans who were originally in favor of the expansion have now flipped-flopped and sided with the president.
“Dragging people out of private health insurance to put them into a government-run program is ‘Hillary care’ come back,” Mr. Boehner said, referring to the Clinton administration plan for universal coverage.
What a typical remark from the "do as I say, not as I do" crowd, and San Francisco Gate columnist David Lazarus picked up on it.

Taxpayers pick up Bush's bill
Like that [government-run health care for every American] would be a bad thing.

What's particularly galling about Bush's position is that it's coming from a man who just underwent a colonoscopy performed at the taxpayer-funded, state-of-the-art medical facility at Camp David by an elite team of doctors from the taxpayer-funded National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

If anyone understands the benefits of government-run health care, it's the president.[...]

That's a fine how-do-you-do for a guy who had five growths removed from his colon on Saturday largely at the government's expense and had them promptly examined by government experts at the government-run National Naval Medical Center.
According to Lazarus, President Bush's government-run health care provides much more than preventative screening procedures like colonoscopies:
In a paper found on the Web site of the Defense Department's Armed Forces Institute of Pathology ( www.afip.org ), former White House physician George Fuller outlines the mission of the taxpayer-funded White House Medical Unit.

He writes that a primary purpose of the group is to provide "confidential, immediate and private access to preventive, routine and urgent care for the principals." This, Fuller adds, "is a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week commitment with no exceptions."

The quality of health care is so exacting, he observes, "that the president cannot even ride an elevator in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building without a physician escort."

According to Fuller, the president enjoys the benefits of medical and dental clinics in the White House, as well as "a fully equipped and supplied outpatient clinic" at Camp David, where Bush's colon was explored.

He says the White House Medical Unit also "keeps a unique and extensive library of medical facilities throughout the world" to provide for the president's health care needs during overseas travel.
Hmm...they keep medical facilities throughout the world for the president's benefit? Now that's what I call universal coverage. America's children should be so lucky.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Must see TV: Michigan

Hollywood loves Michigan! Okay, maybe not Hollywood per se, but film crews from the Discovery Channel and Travel Channel appear to be smitten by our Midwestern charm.

The Travel Channel show “Best Places To Find Cash and Treasures” just wound up a 10-day-shoot in Dollar Bay and Houghton after the crew excavated copper at the Caledonia Mine in Ontonagon. The episode will be eighth in their new fall season. I'm not familiar with this show, but because of the Michigan connection I've added it to my "must see TV" list. (Check out the Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain too. Maybe we can sell him on filming a show about Michigan's culinary and cultural charms. Our wineries are to die for!)

The Discovery Channel has been busy here too. Back in May, the zany and informative "Mythbusters" gathered to test an urban legend at Kalitta Air in Oscoda.
In this case, the question centered on whether a jet engine will flip over a passing vehicle.

''We get a lot of our ideas from fans, but this one came from a story circulating on the Internet,'' explained Tod Mesirow, the show's U.S. series producer. ''The report said that an errant taxi driver drove behind a jet in Brazil. The engine's force flipped the cab over.'' [...]

Yet the cab test wasn't entertainment enough for Byron and her mates. The San Francisco team super-sized Tuesday's experiment by towing an Oscoda School bus, and then a single-engine airplane, into the 747 blast zone.
The results are top secret so you'll have to tune in this fall to see if the myth was busted, plausible, or confirmed.

The TV show I'm most looking forward to is "Dirty Jobs" with Mike Rowe. In May, the program filmed Mike tackling the Mighty Mackinaw Bridge. [Picture courtesy Wikipedia]
[...] The hour-long Mackinac Bridge episode, entitled “Bridge Painter,” is airing in conjunction with the bridge's 50-year anniversary.

While Rowe has done his share of jobs that have left him up to his thighs in mud, splattered with goo and decked out in a variety of grubby hardhats, gloves and rubber boots, bridge officials told Rowe the work on the bridge is an entirely different challenge.

“I would describe our maintenance activities as daunting or difficult, as opposed to dirty,” said Mackinac Bridge Authority Administrator Bob Sweeney. “It takes a certain person to meet the challenges of the job.”

The show is expected to focus on workers painting the huge cables that run along the bridge or doing maintenance inside one of the bridge towers, which soar 552 feet over the water, officials said.
Sweeney's observation, “It takes a certain person to meet the challenges of the job,” is no understatement. It takes a certain person to meet the challenges of driving across the bridge! The Mackinaw Bridge is approximately 5 miles long and the height of the roadway at mid-span is approximately 200 feet above water level, and on a real windy day the bridge is designed to move as much as 35 feet east or west. I've crossed the bridge under those white-knuckle conditions and can attest that it's definitely scary.

To give you a feel for just how high the bridge is, check out these photos of the "Dirty Job" crew filming Mike Rowe above the water, particularly image #14. But to see what Mike thought of this job, you'll have to watch "Bridge Painter" which airs on August 7 at 9 p.m.

In fact, make a point to watch all three shows and see for yourself why people love Michigan.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A question for Rep. Vern Ehlers

Lew Scannon wrote his representative, Vern Ehlers (R) MI, and asked him to get behind Rep. Kucinich's call for impeachment. In his letter, Lew asks Ehlers a question that deserves serious consideration.
Our political system has a series of checks and balances to prevent the types of abuses that the current administration is involved in. So I ask of you: Which is more important, the constitution and the country it protects, or the party for which you belong?
If you say the former, than I urge you to contact Rep Conyers and agree to start impeachment proceedings. Then, if there is just cause for impeachment, I ask you to vote for it, just as I would expect you to vote against it if there is no cause.
If you say the latter, then I hope you remember this missive when in the future, another president continues the arrogant abuses first conceived by the current administration, and your children, or perhaps your grandchildren ask you why our country has strayed so far from it's original intentions, that you had an oppurtunity to stop this now, but chose instead to be loyal to your party moreso than to the constitution you swore to uphold. Thank you. [emphasis added]
I hope Lew shares Ehler's response, although I'm not optimistic that Ehlers will do what's right for the country and our constitution. Can you say rubber-stamp?

Friday, July 20, 2007

My wish for future generations

As a parent and grandparent, I'm like most people in that I'd like future generations to have a bigger piece of the American Dream than I did. What I'm seeing isn't too encouraging. Consider this statistic from the EPI:

Employer-provided health coverage declining for college grads in entry-level jobs
A college degree is no guarantee of receiving health insurance on the job. Over the recent recession and recovery, college graduates in entry-level jobs (defined as employed college graduates between 23 and 27 years old) have become increasingly less likely to receive employer-provided health insurance coverage.1 The Chart below illustrates the recent trends in employer-provided health insurance for this group. Their incidence of employment-based insurance has fallen roughly nine percentage points from 1999-2000 to 2004-05, from 69.6% to 60.5%.
Among those lucky enough to have employer-provided insurance, how many pay a hefty monthly premium toward the cost? Jobs for the college-educated used to include health insurance that was totally paid for by the employer. Not anymore.

Maybe the stock market will provide a good life for future generations. After all, the market just surged past 14,000. That's not too realistic according to DetNews columnist Brian O'Connor:

Dow: Big number, big disconnect
As a reflection of the biggest and best public companies in the nation, a healthy Dow means a healthy stock market, and a healthy stock market means a healthy economy.

If by "healthy" you mean "all but completely disconnected from the reality of U.S. citizens." [...]

Sure, many (OK, some) of us participate in the broader economy thanks to mutual funds in our retirement plans, and it's nice to see those go up with the Dow. That way, if we hang on until retirement we'll have money for milk, gas and mortgages.

For right now, though, we're seeing very little of the growth from "the economy" showing up in our personal economies.
Money isn't everything though. It can't buy piece of mind or health, and it can't buy security. Those are all intangibles that make up what I believe to be part of the American Dream. The rest of America appears to see it that way too according to Democratic pollster Celinda Lake.
"There have been times in our history when the American dream was rooted in opportunity, and there have been times in our history where the dream was rooted in security. This is a time, and has been for a couple for years now, where the dream is rooted in security."

There's not a lot of security in a fast-paced global economy where workers get ahead by chasing opportunities (not obediently following office rules), by constantly reinventing their careers (not relying on seniority), by self-investing their savings (not counting on company pensions).
Face it, the global economy is here to stay, but that doesn't mean the American Dream is no longer relevant. Looking into the future, my dream includes health care for all, social security for our elderly, children who never have to go to bed hungry, and jobs that pay a living wage.

There's no good reason we can't leave future generations some security and peace of mind.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Republicans in the Twilight Zone

Following their vote yesterday to remain in Iraq indefinitely, the NY Times says Republicans are trapped in the twilight zone.

Twilight Zone Filibusters
Republicans have the right to filibuster under centuries-old rules that this page has long defended. It is the height of hypocrisy for this band of Republicans to use that power since only about two years ago they were ready to unilaterally ban filibusters to push through some of Mr. Bush’s most ideologically blinkered judicial nominees.

But beyond that, the Republicans are doing the public a real disservice and playing an increasingly risky hand by delaying sober consideration of the war. [...]

In postponing real action to September and beyond, Republicans laughed off the all-night debate as a “slumber party” of “twilight zone” theatrics by the Democrats. In fact, Bush loyalists seem trapped in the twilight zone, ducking their responsibility to represent constituents by applying credible pressure on the president to come up with an end to his sorry war.
While Republicans remain in the twilight zone, the rest of the country lives with the reality they've created, which explains these results from a poll taken yesterday by CBS/NYT:

61% Say Congress Shouldn't Fund War Without Timetable For Withdrawal

Monday, July 16, 2007

It's about time, Harry

From Bob Geiger: Reid To Force Senate Into All-Night Session Tuesday
Forcing his Republican colleagues to put up or shut up on the notion of an up-or-down vote, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) just moments ago announced that he will immediately file a cloture motion on the Reed-Levin troop redeployment bill and, if Republicans follow through with a filibuster, will place the Senate in a prolonged all-night session Tuesday to force a true continuation of debate.
In Reid's words:
““All Senators will be welcome to speak their mind. Those of us who are ready to end the war will make our case to the American people. Those who support the status quo are welcome to equal floor time to make their case. Let the American people hear the arguments. Let them see their elected representatives engaging in a full, open and honest debate. Let them hear why Republicans are obstructing us on this amendment.
I can't wait to hear members of the GOP stand there and explain why they want U.S. troops to keep dying for nothing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Uninsured Americans Raise Medicare Costs

Here's another reason universal health insurance makes sense:

Uninsured Americans Raise Medicare Expenditures
Americans who weren't insured before they reached age 65 and gained access to Medicare cost the program a lot more than those who did have health insurance, a new study finds.

Data on more than 5,000 older people from a national study found that the previously uninsured needed 13 percent more doctors visits, experienced 20 percent more hospitalizations and had 51 percent higher total medical expenditures after their care began to be covered by the government program.

"Providing health insurance coverage for these adults [before age 65] could not only improve their health but also partially offset the costs of expanding coverage," said Dr. J. Michael McWilliams, a research associate in the Harvard Medical School department of health care policy and lead author of a report in the July 12 New England Journal of Medicine.
The study didn't estimate possible savings, but the chronic conditions that resulted in higher expenditures for the uninsured included high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke; conditions that require monitoring and prophylactic treatment to prevent them from worsening, which in turn translates into healthier people with improved quality of life.

IMHO, the money saved is secondary to good health care for all Americans. You can't put a price tag on something like that.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Welcome to the world...

Grace Lynn, my granddaughter. Gracie was born yesterday, July 12th. She's 6 lbs, 13 oz, 20 1/2 inches long, and quite beautiful in my unbiased opinion!



God is good.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I've got the vacation time blues...

How much vacation time do you get each year? I'm self-employed, so I can usually schedule time off, but there's a downside to doing that since I'm a one person operation and the work doesn't get done if I'm not here - it just backs up and I have double the workload when I get home. I also risk losing my contracts if I take too much time off.

Gee, I wish I were a Michigan legislator. They get generous amounts of time off (some of them even enjoy
free Lake Michigan charter fishing excursions).

From
Michigan Liberal:
During the first six months of 2007, the Michigan Senate under the "leadership" of Mike Bishop worked a total of 66 session days and about 120 total hours, averaging barely more than 90 minutes of work per session day.

At Mike Bishop's $105,650 annual salary, that means that he was paid more than $440.50 per hour for the Senate's work in the first six months of this year. [emphasis added]
That's a sweet deal, eh? In fact, it's a better deal than most Americans get according to Marie Cocco at TruthDig:
Americans and vacations just don’t mix. [...] a quarter of American workers get no paid vacation or paid holidays. And on average, those private-sector workers who do get paid time off are granted only nine vacation days and six paid holidays each year, according to government statistics analyzed by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
It's even a better deal than workers in many other industrialized countries get.
In the rest of the industrialized world, a month or more of paid vacation is typical, and often required. Many Americans know that. And there are can-you-top-this supplements to this surfeit of paid time off. Such as: In Austria, workers who labor at “heavy night work” get two or three extra days off. Also in Austria—as well as in Sweden and New Zealand—workers are actually paid at a higher rate when they’re on vacation than when they’re at work.

In France, workers get extra paid time off if they take some of their vacation days outside of the summer season. In Norway, those 60 and older get extra time off. And of course, your vacation could be ruined if you get sick while you’re away. So Sweden guarantees that if a worker becomes sick while on leave, the days of the illness don’t count against vacation time.
Unbelievable! Why don't Americans get the same perks? I'm sure Republican talking heads would claim it all boils down to money. If a person wants to get ahead and obtain that American Dream, then he has to work hard and work long. Right? Umm...not really.

Back to
TruthDig:
In theory, all this hard work is supposed to spark a more robust economy that is, in turn, an engine of greater upward mobility than what is found in the supposedly coddled precincts of, say, the European Union. But lately, it hasn’t. An ongoing, bipartisan study of intergenerational economic mobility conducted jointly by conservative and liberal-leaning researchers for the Pew Charitable Trusts has found the myth of superior American mobility to be — a myth.

Researchers for the Economic Mobility Project studied the relationship of adult children’s incomes to those of their parents and found that the United States now lags behind France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Norway and Denmark in this measure of upward mobility. “There is little available evidence that the United States has more relative mobility than other advanced nations,” the group reported in May. “If anything, the data seem to suggest the opposite.”

Comparing the incomes of American men who were in their 30s in 2004 with males who were in their 30s in 1974, the researchers found that today’s men actually earn about 12 percent less, after inflation, than their fathers’ generation did. “There has been no progress at all for the youngest generation,” the group reported. The American family stays afloat because its total income has been swelled by women’s paychecks.
There's a family value for you. It takes two paychecks to keep American families afloat.

That brings me back to "Mr. $440.50 per hour Bishop" and friends. It's time to shake up the status quo in Lansing and model their benefits and perks to align closer with those of the constituents they represent, maybe then they'd understand what it feels like to get by with two weeks vacation or - horror - no vacation at all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The right-wing pushes health care myth

Here's yet another right-wing soundbite that fails to pass the sniff test:

Waiting Times For Care? Try Looking At The U.S. - Nurses, Doctors Say It's Time To Debunk The Myths
"There's been a lot of clamor lately about delays in care in some other countries. But if you want to see some really unsightly waiting times, look at U.S. medical facilities," said Deborah Burger, RN, president of the 75,000-member CNA/NNOC.

While the problem has been largely overlooked by the major media, it was quietly exposed by the chief medical officer of Aetna, Inc. late in Aetna's Investor Conference 2007 in March.

In his talk, Troy Brennan conceded that "the (U.S.) healthcare system is not timely." He cited "recent statistics from the Institution of Healthcare Improvement… that people are waiting an average of about 70 days to try to see a provider. And in many circumstances people initially diagnosed with cancer are waiting over a month, which is intolerable," Brennan said. [...]

A Commonwealth Fund study of six highly industrialized countries, the U.S., and five nations with national health systems, Britain, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, found waiting times were worse in the U.S. than in all the other countries except Canada. And, most of the Canadian data so widely reported by the U.S. media is out of date, and misleading, according to PNHP and CNA/NNOC.

In Canada, there are no waits for emergency surgeries, and the median time for non-emergency elective surgery has been dropping as a result of public pressure and increased funding so that it is now equal to or better than the U.S. in most areas, the organizations say. Statistics Canada's latest figures show that median wait times for elective surgery in Canada is now three weeks.

"There are significant differences between the U.S. and Canada, too," said Burger. "In Canada, no one is denied care because of cost, because their treatment or test was not 'pre-approved' or because they have a pre-existing condition." [emphasis added]
No wonder Canadians are pushing back against commercial efforts to open up their system to for-profit health services.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

2008 Democratic candidates on health care

I know where the 2008 Republican presidential candidates stand on the issue of health care (they put it at the bottom of the list), but what about the Democrats? Do they concur with voters who see it as our number one domestic issue? After checking their various campaign websites, I can say they've definitely put a lot of thought into the issue and given it priority status.

First up is Bill Richardson and his plan as described at a recent health care forum:
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said the "cornerstone" of his plan is to allow all Americans and business to be able to purchase the same coverage that members of Congress have, while offering "help" for those will low incomes. He also argued for an expansion of Medicare to cover those 55 and older, and a "cooperative relationship" between individuals, businesses and states "catalyzed by the government." Without naming Edwards, he argued that additional sources of revenue are not necessary, saying increased efficiency, preventative care and an exit from Iraq will provide enough revenue to expand coverage. But it wasn't clear if Richardson was pledging to achieve universal coverage.
Additionally, from Joseph Paduda's blog, "Richardson appears to be pushing for the elimination of Medicare Advantage and other private-insurer based Medicare programs." That's a plus since these plans cost on average 19% more than traditional Medicare, but he's also promoting tax breaks for lower-income Americans to help them buy health insurance. Several Republican candidates mentioned tax breaks too, but I don't see how that will help poor people buy health coverage unless the government advances them the money up front.

Mike Gravel solves that problem with vouchers.
Former Alaska senator Mike Gravel proposed a single-payer system of sorts, but under his system each American would get a health care voucher that they would use to purchase their choice of five or six private insurance plans. “Everyone gets the same product. If you want more than the product you’ve got, you pay for it,” he said. Gravel said he would not expand Medicare or Medicaid unless “we don’t see the private insurance companies shape up.”
Gravel's voucher idea is interesting, but I don't see the private insurance companies shaping up, and I don't see Gravel winning the primary either.

On to the next candidate, Hillary Clinton, best remembered for championing universal health care long before anyone else would even touch the subject. Here's a brief description of her plan from a recent speech:
There are three parts to my approach. First, lowering costs for everyone. Second, improving quality for everyone. Third, insuring everyone. [...]

My plan will offer individuals and small businesses market access to larger insurance pools that will lower costs and end insurance company discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions. As part of a plan for universal coverage, which I will discuss in detail in the coming months, we would create large insurance pools that lower administrative costs for small businesses and individuals by spreading the risk. In a system of universal coverage insurance companies cannot as easily shift costs through cherry picking and other means.
Clinton would also push legislation to provide respite care for caregivers of elderly and disabled Americans, something I approve of and believe is desperately needed. However, from a recent health care debate, she said "it would take her two terms to get a universal health care system in place." That's unacceptable to me. The number of uninsured is at crisis levels and Americans can't wait that long.

I'm not totally sold on her plan to create large insurance pools either. I no longer trust corporate America to put people before profits, and the fact that Clinton received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign
contributions from insurance companies for her 2006 re-election in the Senate disturbs me too.

John Edwards has also been pushing universal coverage for sometime now, and he has the most comprehensive and detailed position on health care to date. Here's a brief description from The Nation:
Edwards' plan, first unveiled earlier this year, calls for an expansion of both public and private health plans, forces employers to either provide health care or pay into a fund that does, mandates individuals to buy insurance and offers government subsidies for families with incomes of up to $80k who can't afford it.
He also has plans [pdf] to expand the infrastructure for long-term care, offer respite care and support to families caring for loved ones, and improve the wages, training and working conditions for aides, which definitely scores brownie points with me.

Edwards also gets more points for his honesty and candidness. When asked at a recent health care debate about the transitional costs to a new system, he said "it would cost $90 to $120 billion a year, which he would pay for by rolling back President Bush's tax cuts for those making more than $200,000." This honesty won't hurt Edwards since polling shows that voters are willing to pay higher taxes in order to solve our health care crisis.

Moving along to Barack Obama, you can read about his plan on his website, but here's a short synopsis from CommonSense:
If you don't have health insurance through your employer, you will be enrolled into a new, comprehensive public health insurance plan that emphasizes prevention, chronic care management and quality care. The benefits will be similar to those available today to every federal employee.

This plan will enjoy the great efficiencies we see in public plans like Medicare but, if you still cannot afford it, you will receive a subsidy to pay for it. Of course, you can choose private insurance if you prefer but the private plans will have to compete on a level playing field with the public plan—without the extra payments that tip the scales in favor of private Medicare Advantage plans today.

Employers who do not offer meaningful coverage or a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees will be required to pay a percentage of payroll to the plan and their employees will be enrolled. Any employer can decide it no longer wishes to administer insurance and can offer insurance through the exchange. Self-employed Americans will find it easy to enroll as well at no disadvantage. Children will be covered and no one can be denied health insurance because of a preexisting condition or illness. [...]

Much of that tracks what Edwards has offered, and in fact, Obama offered that Edwards' plan is "very credible."When asked if additional tax revenue is needed, Obama did not dismiss the possibility, saying we need to "do whatever it takes" but noted there is much savings to be reaped with a more efficient system. He also said he would need to "put some money on the front end in creating a new system" and then "get those savings on the back end," emphasizing that "those savings [should] go into the pockets of families, and not just insurance companies or drug companies."
Obama only recently posted his plan on his website and it does sound very similar to Edwards'. He does get points from me though for mentioning there would be no extra payments to private Medicare Advantage type plans. (Taxpayers have been fleeced enough by the private sector under the Bush administration.)

Chris Dodd also has a plan to fix health care on his campaign website, although it doesn't appear as though he'll be a contender. Here's a brief synopsis of his plan from CommonSense:
Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd said his plan was based on four principles: universality (“everyone participates, everyone benefits,” prevention, extend Medicaid to more families, and improving the use of technology. He referenced his leadership in getting the Family Medical Leave Act written into the law as proof of his commitment to working families and to the health care issue. [...]

As did some of the other candidates, Dodd said that all Americans should be able to get the same type of health care plan as members of Congress.
That type of plan has already been introduced. The
Kennedy-Dingell Medicare-For-All plan offers the uninsured a choice to use Medicare or the federal employees health plan, the same plan members of Congress and the president currently enjoy, but I agree with Dodd that all Americans should be able to get it.

That brings me to Dennis Kucinich. He's the only presidential candidate with a plan for a universal single payer, not for profit health care system. The National Health Insurance Bill (HR 676) is being sponsored by Congressman John Conyers and Kucinich, along with the backing of Physician's for a National Health Program. Click the links to read more, but here's a brief description from CommonSense:
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich used the forum to continue his vigorous pitch for a single-payer health care system, arguing that the plans of the other major candidates were too dependent on insurance companies and others with a profit motive that was antithetical to the notion of universal, nondiscriminatory care. To critics who raise the fear that a totally government-run system would end up rationing care to control costs, Kucinich said that insurance companies already ration care. He also scoffed at the argument that private-sector competition would reduce costs, saying that the opposite has been the case in health care.
I like HR 676 (and the Medicare-For-All plan) and I agree with all of Kucinich's points, but I don't think he has a chance of winning the nomination either, so that leaves me undecided about who I'm backing in the primary. I want to vote for the person I think has the best chance of winning the White House AND delivering on health care, but I also want that person to be someone who is interested in delivering every dime possible toward providing care, not delivering for the investors. Who would you vote for?