Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is in Iowa, touting a list of moves he says would help reduce health care costs in America.
"Several months ago I laid out a very specific universal health care plan," Edwards says. "In addition to covering everybody, which I think is very important, I think we need very specific ideas about how to reduce health care costs."
Edwards proposes changes that would put certain prescription drugs on the market faster and a "cash prize" for pharmaceutical companies so new drugs that treat common diseases can be more quickly offered to consumers, at reduced cost. Edwards would also allow Americans to buy drugs from Canada.
"We should have reimportation of prescription medicine," Edwards says. "Even more important than that is to allow the federal government to use its market power to negotiate better prices." One of the components of the law which set up prescription drugs benefits under Medicare forbids the federal government from negotiating for lower prices on medications that are commonly prescribed to seniors.
Edwards, who is a trial lawyer, is also proposing changes in the court system that he contends would help reduce liability costs for doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. It puts more "responsibility" on lawyers who file malpractice claims, according to Edwards.
"A lot of cases get filed without having been properly screened and evaluated to determine if they’re serious and meritorious and the result is the system gets clogged up, it costs everybody money before it’s determined the case never should have been filed to begin with. We should put responsibility to the lawyers to determine that on the front end," Edwards says. "…Have (the cases) evaluated by independent experts, require the lawyers to actually certify when they file that case that they’ve done it, that it’s been looked at my independent experts, that the case is meritorious and I would hold the lawyers — not the patient — financially responsible if (the lawyers) fail to meet their obligation."
According to Edwards, malpractice and liability costs account for "a tiny percentage" of health care expenses in the U.S. "But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address it," he says.
Edwards claims his health care reform proposals would save the average family over $2000 a year.
Edwards is campaigning in Iowa today, tomorrow and Sunday.