(Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain this week outlined a proposal to provide Americans with a refundable $2,500 tax credit as an incentive to buy health insurance.
McCain's plan offers voluntary solutions to fixing health care in the country, where high costs have left millions unable to pay for health insurance. Several other candidates have also suggested how they would provide coverage for the 47 million people in the United States without health insurance. Following are some health care proposals from the leading candidates.
* New York Sen. Hillary Clinton
Her plan, estimated to cost about $110 billion per year, would require all Americans to get health insurance. Under a public-private partnership, they would keep existing coverage or choose from private insurance options members of Congress receive. Individuals may also choose a public plan similar to Medicare.
Creates new federal subsidies for those who can't afford coverage and imposes new mandates on large employers to provide health insurance or help pay for it. Small business will receive tax breaks to provide health coverage.
Forces insurance companies to give coverage to everyone, ending discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. Drug companies would also be required to offer fair prices.
* Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards
Proposal also requires health insurance for all and is estimated to cost about $120 billion per year. It forces private companies, government and individuals to share responsibility for obtaining coverage. Creates new tax credits, expands Medicaid and the federal-state children's health insurance plan, and takes steps to contain health care costs.
Creates regional Health Care Markets, or purchasing pools to give Americans the option of buying into a health care plan, increases choices among insurance plans and cuts costs for businesses offering insurance to employees.
* Illinois Sen. Barack Obama
His plan provides health coverage for almost all Americans. Creates national public insurance program to allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health care similar to that available to federal employees. No one will be turned way or charged more due to illness and everyone who needs it will receive a subsidy for their premiums.
Requires all employers to contribute toward health coverage for their employees or toward the cost of the public plan. Creates a national health insurance exchange to reform the private insurance market.
Mandates that all children have health care coverage.
* New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson
Plan calls for coverage for every American. Working families and small businesses will be able to purchase coverage through the same plan as members of Congress. It guarantees all Americans can choose to keep current coverage or obtain coverage through an existing program.
It will be paid for without raising taxes. Everyone who needs coverage will get an advance refundable tax credit based on income. All Americans will have to have health coverage and employers will pay their share of employee health-care costs.
Eliminates high interest rates for medical expenses. Invests in prevention and healthy lifestyles.
* Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Proposes income exclusion of up to $15,000 for those without employer coverage to make insurance more affordable. Proposes health insurance credit to low-income Americans to help make coverage more affordable to the uninsured.
Calls for reforms to medical liability legal system to end frivolous lawsuits.
Encourages states to improve health care quality and make insurance more affordable by offering block grants.
Expands access to health savings accounts. Implements incentives in insurance markets to promote preventive care.
* Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney
Plan expands and deregulates private insurance market to decrease costs and give more Americans access to affordable care.
Offers tax breaks and other incentives to those without insurance. Proposes tax breaks for individuals who buy their own health insurance with a high deductible. Allows tax deductions for out-of-pocket medical expenses and co-payments for services.
Allows states to direct money spent treating the uninsured to instead help them purchase private health insurance.
* Arizona Sen. John McCain
Besides offering a refundable $2,500 tax credit, $5,000 for families, his plan would promote open health care markets by letting providers practice nationwide, rather than restricting them regionally.
This would allow families to purchase health insurance across state lines and through any willing sponsor.
To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/