Local News

Elizabeth Edwards talks health care reform in Carrboro

Posted October 1, 2008 3:19 p.m. EDT
Updated October 10, 2008 9:18 p.m. EDT

— The wife of two-time Democratic presidential candidate and former North Carolina U.S. Sen. John Edwards was in Carrboro Wednesday for a roundtable discussion on health care.

Elizabeth Edwards returned to the public stage this month, and she plans to campaign against the health care policies of Republican presidential nominee John McCain until the election.

Edwards supports mandatory universal health coverage while McCain supports free-market policies and a tax break to help drive down the cost of care.

McCain would also give tax credits to individuals and families to offset insurance costs so they can choose the best coverage for their specific needs. He says it would also encourage more businesses to drop health care benefits.

But Edwards said Wednesday that McCain's plan would take away health benefits for more than 600,000 people in North Carolina and that middle-class families would face a tax increase.

Edwards was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 but was declared cancer-free after treatment. Eighteen months ago, she announced the cancer had returned and had spread to her bones, making it no longer curable.

"I'm not alone in this," said Edwards, who learned last year she had an incurable form of cancer that has spread to her bones. "I'm not the only person who is going to go out into that individual market with a chronic condition and try to buy health insurance."

WRAL News spoke to staff at McCain's headquarters in North Carolina several times Wednesday to try to get a response to Edwards' criticism of the senator's health care plan.

They referred to a copy of the plan on McCain's campaign Web site.

Edwards would not talk about Sen. Barack Obama's plan, which would require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions and would give tax credits to small businesses to help encourage affordable health care.

"I'm talking about one particular proposal," she said. "And perhaps, at some other event, I'll be happy to talk about another proposal."

As for her own health, Edwards said her health is "no worse" than it was when she and her husband announced her cancer in March 2007.

"I feel fine," she said. "I'm 59 and have young children, so I'm a little tired."

Edwards has made health care her life's work since the cancer diagnosis, and her personal memoir takes readers into the intimate moments of her battle with the disease.

She aided her husband in putting together his health care proposal and has criticized both presidential nominees for their policies, although McCain has been her target to a far greater degree.