Edwards 2003 v. Edwards 2007 on Health Care

One of the annoying things about John Edwards (an extremely long and growing list) is that he has a tendency to attack other candidates as being unworthy of consideration for being President for not having moved as sharply to the left as he has in an extremely short time. I’ve previously noted how Edwards has actied as if he is holier than the other Democrats on Iraq, only to be shot down by Obama who actually opposed the war which Edwards supported. Edwards has been very quick to oppose the health care plans offered by his opponents for the Democratic nomination for not going far enough but Political Radar notes how Edwards backed a much more moderate plan four years ago:

But Edwards wasn’t always a fan of having the government provide universal health coverage. In 2003 and 2004, during his first campaign for president, he backed a far more modest proposal that was estimated to cover about half of those who lacked health insurance — and criticized rivals who had universal plans for what he portrayed as fiscal irresponsibility.

“What we ought to be doing is something that number one is achievable and number two is responsible,” Edwards said in July 2003, in reference to then-rep. Richard Gephardt’s, D-Mo., universal healthcare plan, according to The Washington Post.

Late in the Democratic primary fight, when Edwards was trying to topple Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., he contrasted his plan with Kerry’s by pointing out that it was less expensive. He said at the time that his $53 billion healthcare plan would cover about 21 million people, including all children under age 21; Kerry’s plan was pitched as costing $72 billion, to cover 27 million people.

“We will be able to attract the support we need to get my plan actually done, so we don’t spend 15 or 20 years debating the issue,” Edwards said in February 2004.

While Edwards ran in 2004 as a moderate, he has tacked leftward in his 2008 bid. His healthcare plan would cost roughly twice as much as the plan he put forward four years ago, with an estimated price tag of between $90 billion to $120 billion. He has said he would pay for the spending by rolling back tax cuts for the rich passed under President Bush’s tenure.

It is one thing for a candidate to change their mind and push for a bigger plan. It is a different thing for Edwards to argue that anything short of his current plan is not even worthy of consideration. Whether there should be a mandate and the size of any new programs is a legitimate matter for debate among the candidates. Other candidates might also question Edwards’ idea for making preventative care mandatory. I also question whether a candidate who didn’t even know Cuba has a government-run health care plan shortly after watching Sicko is knowledgeable enough to criticize anyone else’s plan.

Another factor which changed in Edwards’ plan between 2003 and 2007 is the absence of his previous plans for malpractice reform. Has Edwards decided that he does not want to risk antagonizing those who are financing his campaign? Will Americans really vote for someone so indebted to a single special interest–especially when they realize how secretive he has been with regards to his fund raising?

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