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Feingold announces plan for universal health care

Universal health care what U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Middleton, is aiming at in the health care reform package he announced Monday in Milwaukee.

Feingold says he will introduce the package he calls the "State-Based Health Care Reform Act" in the Senate this week.

The program it would authorize a couple of states to launch five-year long pilot projects aimed at providing universal health care for everyone in those states.

"With an American-style approach to reform, that gives flexibility to the states and fuels innovation, real health care reform is within reach," Feingold said. "I support guaranteed health care coverage for all Americans and this bill moves us toward that goal."

Feingold says the program would cost $32 billion over ten years and is fully paid for through offsets, although he did not mention what other federal programs those offsets would come from.

He added that the offsets would make funding available right away which would allow the program to take effect immediately.

The pilot programs would be funded through a grant application program overseen by the Health Care Reform Task Force established in the legislation.

Feingold noted that his plan gives flexibility and assistance to the states to achieve universal health care.

Under his plan states are not required to adopt a certain program but are instead given the flexibility to achieve universal coverage through any means deemed appropriate by the state.

Coverage must meet certain minimum standards and must include protections for low-income people.

The potential presidential candidate says the bill is aimed at breaking the political stalemate in Congress that is preventing meaningful health care reform from being enacted.

"For too long, Congress has sat on the sidelines while the country's health care crisis has gotten worse," Feingold said. "With 46 million Americans struggling without health insurance, we must find a way to break the current stalemate, and that's what my legislation is all about."