IMAGE: Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del.
Presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. has a health care plan he says expands access but doesn't mandate universal coverage.
updated 10/23/2007 1:45:19 PM ET 2007-10-23T17:45:19

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday released a plan that would expand access to health coverage for all children and adults, but stops short of mandating universal coverage.

Biden's plan would also improve coverage for catastrophic illnesses, modernize the health care system and encourage wellness.

"Getting this done will require the kind of experience and leadership that comes from years of success corralling bipartisan support for numerous issues," Biden said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. "I have that experience and it will prove invaluable when I am president."

The Delaware senator, who was on a weeklong campaign swing through Iowa, was scheduled to end his trip by unveiling his plan during a news conference in Des Moines on Tuesday afternoon.

Biden said that if he is elected, he would bring together government workers, health care providers, labor leaders and businesses in the first three months of his administration to work on health care challenges.

While his plan doesn't require universal coverage, Biden's campaign said if Americans are given better health care options, they will get coverage.

"Senator Biden believes that if we provide an affordable health care option, people will step up and take it," said spokeswoman Annie Tomasini.

The plan would cost an estimated $110 billion each year. It would be paid for by rolling back tax cuts for the top 1 percent of Americans, eliminating tax breaks on capital gains and ending tax loopholes for hedge fund managers and private equity partners, the campaign said.

To provide health coverage for uninsured children, Biden proposes expanding the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, to at least 300 percent of the poverty level - or about $61,950 for a family of four, and raising the coverage age to at least 21. Families that don't meet the poverty criteria would be able to purchase coverage under the program.

Currently, SCHIP provides government-subsidized health insurance to low-income families, and the vast majority of the 6.6 million participants are children. Last week, the House failed to override President Bush's veto of a bill that would increase spending on the program to $60 billion over five years, double what President Bush has proposed.

Biden's plan also aims to encourage wellness among children by eliminating co-payments for physicals, vision and hearing screenings, dental checkups and vaccinations, no matter their income level.

For adults, Biden wants to allow uninsured Americans to buy-in to a program like the health insurance program that members of Congress and federal employees get. They would pay on a sliding scale based on their income, and small businesses would share costs with the government.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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