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Health Journalism 2008: Edwards says McCain plan gives insurance companies a pass Date: 04/07/08

This article is about a panel at Health Journalism 2008.

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By Pia Christensen
Association of Health Care Journalists

Elizabeth Edwards, the keynote speaker at the annual Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, opened by answering the question she thought was on everyone's mind: "I'm doing well."

She was, of course, referring to her diagnosis of breast cancer that was first revealed following the 2004 presidential campaign and was found to have recurred last year.

But her fast-paced talk focused mainly on John McCain's health care plan, which she said will not solve the problems in this country. She repeatedly urged journalists to hold the candidates' feet to the fire and make sure they are telling the truth about their health care plans. She said journalists have the responsibility to "make the American voting public more informed."

Edwards said McCain isn't telling the truth about health care. She pointed to language on his Web site that refers to "building national markets by permitting providers to practice nationwide" and bringing costs under control. She said the language sounds good, but pointed out that different states, such as Delaware and Nevada, have widely varying regulations for corporations and that his plan would allow health plans to be based in states with fewer mandates. The McCain plan, according to Edwards, would allow consumers to buy cheaper insurance from companies in less-regulated states but then they will have issues with pre-existing conditions or have high deductibles.

Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards discussed John McCain's health care plan as the keynote speaker at the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism luncheon.

She described McCain as "trying to give companies a pass on regulation by allowing a national playing field." But, she said, the problem is that the voters know nothing about the regulations.

Edwards pointed out that McCain, as the son of a Navy officer and then an officer himself, has never spent a day in which he wasn't eligible for government-run health care yet he regularly denounces government-run health care.

While taking questions from the audience, Edwards was asked who she wanted to be the next president and which candidates' health care plan she liked best.

"John Edwards should be the next president," she said. She did say she prefers Hillary Clinton's health care plan and that it is similar to the one proposed by her husband when he was a candidate.

Edwards got several laughs from the crowd, particularly when she paused in her talk to check on the halftime score of the University of North Carolina women's basketball team - it was down at the half but she predicted, "That's OK; we can make that up." (North Carolina won 78-74 over Louisville to advance to the Elite Eight.)

Later a cell phone could be heard in the crowd and she paused to tell the audience member "Check it and make sure it's not your kids."

Health care reform is "real life with real life consequences if this is put into place." She talked about living with her diagnosis and her access to the best medical care but that on the campaign trail she met many women with similar conditions who don't have the resources and care that she does. "Don't let those people stand alone," she told the journalists.