Edwards unveiled his plan to combat HIV/AIDS Monday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Trying to reclaim the health care spotlight from campaign rival Hillary Clinton, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards unveiled his plan to combat HIV/AIDS during an appearance at the Families USA/Kaiser Foundation Health Care Forum on Monday in Washington, D.C.
The former North Carolina senator argued that, in order to better combat HIV/AIDS domestically, Medicaid needs to provide more extensive coverage for HIV-related treatment. He also advocated teaching age-appropriate sex education and ending the federal ban on needle exchange programs. Turning his attention to the worldwide scale of the epidemic, Edwards argued that the United States should invest an additional $50 billion in global HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment over a five-year period. Additionally, he proposed bypassing the FDA and relying on the World Health Organization to provide approval for new AIDS drugs in the developing world.
The former senator used the occasion to highlight the racial disparity in new rates of HIV/AIDS infection. “This is a disease that hits people of color much harder than others,” he said, explaining that, in the U.S., two out of every three newly diagnosed cases are with Americans of color.
Edwards also took advantage of the forum to slam President Bush’s threatened veto of a proposed expansion of the joint state-federal children’s health insurance program. “Here is health insurance for children who have no health insurance,” said Edwards. “I can’t even imagine what the argument is honestly…. I just don’t think this is where America is. I’m not sure exactly what the president’s thinking.”
Edwards, who was a trial lawyer before seeking elective office, took issue with the belief that legal malpractice judgments are largely responsible for rising health care costs. He dismissed that particular argument as “mostly insurance company-driven hysteria.” Edwards claimed that the “reality is that the costs associated with legal cases is well under one percent of [total costs in the] health care system.” Nevertheless, the presidential hopeful did unveil a proposal to contain legal malpractice costs by placing more responsibility on lawyers to file only cases with substantial legal merit.
In a short press conference after the forum, Edwards criticized the health care reform proposals of the GOP White House hopefuls. “None of them seem serious to me,” he said. “They’re not universal. They’re not comprehensive health care reform. They seem to be a reiteration of the same old, tired Republican efforts of the past, [such as] health savings accounts.”
–CNN’s Silvio Carillo and Martina Stewart