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Government, Politics & Issues

Gephardt displays wait-and-see reaction to Senate health care proposal

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 20, 2009 - Former U.S. Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, who built his ill-fated 2004 presidential bid around a plan for almost-universal health care, offered a mixed reaction over the weekend to the plan expected to pass the U.S. Senate this week.

Gephardt, formerly a Democrat from St. Louis, and former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson serve on the board of "America's Agenda: Health Care for All," a coalition of labor, business and non-profit groups and individuals.

In a statement displayed on Politico, Gephardt and Thompson issued a joint statement that said, in part:

"We continue to believe that coordinated care delivery, which may include physician-led community health teams, patient-centered medical homes, integrated team-based delivery systems, or similar coordinated care entities, is an essential element to bringing down costs, preventing chronic diseases and promoting overall wellness across our nation. It's a proven idea and should be included as an option for beneficiaries participating in private insurance plans through state exchanges.

"The bill before the Senate this week isn't and shouldn't be the final answer, but the status quo is simply unacceptable."

In 2003, Gephardt launched his quest for the White House by unveiling a health-care plan that required businesses to cover their employees but also provided tax credits to help pay for the coverage.

The price tag was more than $2 trillion over 10 years (more than twice the cost of the Senate or House plan), but Gephardt maintained then that the program would pay for itself in the long run. His chief presidential rival at the time, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, said Gephardt's plan was laudable but too expensive and had no chance of becoming law.

Over the past week, Dean has become the most outspoken Democratic critic of the current Senate plan, saying too much had been stripped out of the original plan.

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