Originally created 06/05/06

Health care shows split



Editor's note: This is another in an ongoing series looking at the substantive issues in the governor's race by talking to the candidates for the Democratic nomination. If you have a topic you want addressed, please contact Walter Jones at walter.jones@morris.com or (404) 589-8424.

ATLANTA - One of the biggest policy differences between Cathy Cox and Mark Taylor comes in the area of health care. While they agree on the topic's importance, they have competing proposals for how they would address costs and coverage.

Both candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination introduced ideas early.

Mr. Taylor released his first, during a January news conference. One aspect would provide basic health and dental coverage for children who are uninsured now. Modeled on a program in Illinois, Mr. Taylor's proposal would provide coverage regardless of family income.

"Now is the time to provide health insurance to every child in Georgia, every single one of them, all of them - regardless of who they are, who their parents are, where they live, or income," Mr. Taylor said.

He estimates the plan will cost taxpayers $50 million to $100 million per year based on an estimated 75,000 children enrolled. Critics say he's low-balling the price tag because even well-heeled families would be inclined to drop the insurance on their children if they can get a subsidized plan from the government.

Ms. Cox has a different approach that she announced in April. She wants to expand the existing PeachCare for Kids, a joint state-federal program. Expanding it to more children would allow it to get more federal money, but she also wants to reduce the premiums parents pay.

She hasn't pinned a cost estimate on it or any of her health proposals.

Her spokesman, Peter Jackson, said the price would come when the details are worked out.

"The best that I can really say on that is it's a big idea that's going to require some real analysis," he said.

To cover adults, Ms. Cox would create a purchasing pool for small businesses and the self-employed to combine their negotiating power with insurance companies. And she would allow them to take a tax credit for half the premiums they pay.

For those who still have no insurance, she would have the taxpayers pick up the tab for all or some of the cost of providing catastrophic coverage.

Mr. Taylor and Ms. Cox have similar plans for prescription drugs in which the state would buy in bulk and make its bargains available to the public.

Mr. Taylor would make them available to the poor, the uninsured and people older than 55.

Ms. Cox would make them available to state workers, small businesses, the self-employed and senior citizens who don't already have Medicare drug coverage.