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Edwards calls for national health insurance

LAS VEGAS, Nev.—Presidential hopeful John Edwards, in his first public appearance since announcing that his wife Elizabeth's cancer has returned and is incurable, pledged Saturday to offer universal health care to all Americans.

Speaking at a health-care forum at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Edwards suggested that perhaps too much attention has been bestowed on him and Elizabeth in recent days.

After all, he pointed out, they have great health-insurance coverage. Many Americans don't.

"I see millions of women going through the same thing," Edwards said.

"A lot of women with the exact same diagnosis had to get up the next morning and go to work. And the next morning to go to work," Edwards said, earning great applause from a crowd of several hundred.

The forum was sponsored by the Service Employees International Union and the Center for American Progress Action Fund to focus on health-care issues. All presidential candidates were invited; seven Democrats accepted.

Edwards, a Democrat and former U.S. senator from North Carolina, was first on stage. In a three-minute speech, he thanked the public for their concerns about his wife. He greeted her in the audience. Then he ticked through his plan for universal health care:

_requiring employers to cover workers or pay into a fund for that purpose;

_having the federal government set up competitive health-care markets;

_offering consumers choices among private coverage or a single-payer government plan;

_requiring every American by law to participate.

"What we need is big, bold, dramatic change, not small change," Edwards said.

He said his plan would cost $90 to $120 billion. He would pay for it by rolling back President Bush's tax cuts.

Asked during a question period whether he thinks it's possible to get to universal health care without tax increases, Edwards said: "No. I do not. I do not believe you can have universal health care without having a source of revenue."

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(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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