(CNN) - Just hours before White House rival Hillary Clinton unveiled her massive universal health care plan Monday, three hundred miles east of Des Moines, in Chicago, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards was making a dramatic promise of his own: As president, he would cut off health coverage to top government officials until his health care plan is passed into law.
"To show Congress just how serious I am, on the first day of my administration, I will submit legislation that ends health care coverage for the president, all members of Congress, and all senior political appointees in both branches of government on July 20th, 2009 – unless we have passed universal health care reform," Edwards said in a speech to the Laborers Leadership Convention.
Edwards, who was the first presidential candidate to unveil the details of a proposed health care reform plan earlier this year, noted Clinton's plan shares many similarities with his. But Edwards suggested that the New York Democrat is too entrenched in the Washington "system" to successfully bring about reform.
"If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I’m flattered," Edwards said. "But unless Sen. Clinton’s willing to acknowledge the truth about our broken government, and the cost of health care reform, I’m afraid flattery will get us nowhere"
"Actually bringing change starts with telling the truth," he added. "And the truth is: the system in Washington has been hijacked for the benefit of corporate profits and the very wealthiest."
“The lesson Sen. Clinton seems to have learned from her experience with health care is, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,’” he continued.
Clinton’s health care reform plan has an estimated $110 billion price tag and would require all Americans to have health insurance. Edwards has estimated his plan will cost between $90 and 120 billion.
- CNN's Alexander Mooney and K.D. Fabian