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Miller Proposes Universal Health Care Coverage

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - State Treasurer Jonathan Miller is pledging to provide universal health care coverage to Kentuckians by 2011 in his bid to win the Democratic nomination for governor.

Miller, speaking by teleconference, said Monday that he and running mate Irv Maze are proposing a series of expanded health programs that when combined would provide access to insurance for most, if not all, children and lower income families, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

His main health proposals include:

- Allowing small businesses with between three and 100 employees to enter "insurance purchasing alliances" to leverage cheaper insurance rates as a group so they can provide their workers
insurance.

- Expanding the state's Medicaid program which covers health costs for poor and disabled Kentuckians

- To allow it to help subsidize health coverage for families that earn less than 300 percent of the federal poverty rate ($58,000 for a family of four).

- Ensuring that all uninsured children have health insurance through a federal and state partnership program, the Kentucky Children's Health Insurance Program.

- Providing cheaper prescription drugs by joining forces with other states in a bulk purchasing program.

- Expanding some of the state's programs that encourage Kentuckians to quit smoking and live healthier.

Miller said he plans to flesh out his proposals more after assembling advisers, ranging from "economists, the doctors, the hospitals, the labor leaders" to citizens who have struggled with health costs.

Miller said he didn't know yet how much his plan would cost, but added that he expects the state could cover some of the costs through proceeds from expanded gaming, which he plans to push if elected. He said expanded gaming could bring in $500 million.

One critic of expanded gaming said he's disappointed that Democratic candidates are suggesting that casinos could pay for "pipe dream ideas."

"They're blowing the smoke of false promises in the face of all Kentuckians with their completely unsubstantiated revenue estimates," said John Mark Hack, chairman of the Say No to Casinos group.

Other Democratic candidates have hinted that health care will play a big part in their issue platforms this spring.

Bruce Lunsford, the Louisville businessman who founded the nursing home company Vencor, told a group of Louisville Democrats last month that making health care more accessible will be a major component of his campaign.

Steve Henry, the former lieutenant governor, said when he announced he was running that he would ensure every child in Kentucky had health insurance.

And candidate Steve Beshear, another former lieutenant governor and attorney general, will outline his health policy goals "very soon," said spokesman Robert Kellar.

House Speaker Jody Richards mentioned the need for better health care in his campaign kick-off in January.
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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,
http://www.kentucky.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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