Beshear touts health plan; Fletcher says he's "rolling dice"

BELLEVUE, Ky. (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial nominee Steve
Beshear proposed a health care plan Tuesday he claims would expand insurance coverage and curb health costs for Kentucky residents.

Beshear, who is challenging Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher in
the Nov. 6 election, said if elected he wants to extend health
coverage to thousands of uninsured children through Medicaid and
the Kentucky Children's Health Insurance Program, and assist
eligible low-income elderly people with out-of-pocket prescription

Beshear's campaign estimated that the first-year costs for
implementing his proposals would total $70.5 million to $99.5
million - which covers plans to help uninsured children, provide
prescription drug assistance and expand a program to promote the
birth of healthy babies.

The Democrat's plan also includes allowing young adults to stay
on their parents' health insurance plans longer, opening the
Kentucky Children's Health Insurance Program to all families and
assisting small businesses struggling to afford insurance for their
employees. His plan would allow more low-income families to obtain
insurance at discounted premiums through KCHIP. Other families
could buy KCHIP coverage at full price. Beshear said his ultimate
goal is to provide health coverage for all Kentuckians, which he
said would make Kentucky businesses more competitive and is "the
right thing to do morally."

"We need real leadership with detailed plans, not just vague
promises to make that happen," Beshear told reporters after
touring a health care facility in this northern Kentucky city just
across the river from Cincinnati.

Fletcher's campaign did not respond to Beshear's proposal.
Fletcher, a doctor, has credited his "Get Healthy Kentucky"
initiative with spreading the message about healthy choices in a
state with high rates of smoking and obesity that lead to chronic
illnesses. The governor says his push to revamp the state's
Medicaid system erased a deficit and provided better care. Fletcher
also supported creating a state program that helps small businesses
provide health insurance to their employees.

Beshear said more than 550,000 Kentuckians have no health care
coverage. For insured Kentuckians, premium costs have risen, on
average, 84 percent since 2000, more than four times the average
wage growth, he said.

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

AP-NY-08-07-07 1632EDT

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