ROCHESTER, N.H. – Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani on Tuesday offered a consumer-oriented solution to the nation's health care woes that relies on giving individuals tax credits to purchase private insurance.
Critical to Giuliani's plan is a $15,000 tax deduction for families to buy private health insurance, instead of getting insurance through employers. Any leftover funds could be rolled over year-to-year for medical expenses.
Campaigning in this first primary state, Giuliani said his goal is to give individuals more control over their health care. The former New York mayor said as more people buy plans, insurers will drop their prices, making insurance affordable to those who lack it now.
"Government cannot take care of you. You've got to take care of yourself," he said. "As more of us do that, the cheaper it will become and the higher in quality it becomes."
Giuliani offered the broad outline of his plan but his campaign did not provide many specifics. Asked how much his plan would cost and how many of the people without insurance it would help, Giuliani said he won't have those answers for two or three months.
He also acknowledged that it could take years for insurers to drop their prices and make insurance affordable to those who don't have it.
Democratic candidates John Edwards and Barack Obama have proposed more detailed steps to deal with the 47 million Americans lacking health insurance. Edwards' plan has an individual mandate requiring all Americans to have coverage. Employers would have to share the cost of insuring workers or pay into a public program.
Edwards estimates that his plan would cost $90 billion to $120 billion per year and would be financed by repealing President Bush's tax cuts on those making more than $200,000 per year.
Obama's plan calls for the creation of a public program similar to the health plan offered to federal employees, and a National Health Insurance Exchange for consumers to shop among private plans. Employers would have to share the cost of insuring workers.
Obama estimates his plan would cost $50 billion to $65 billion per year, paid for by letting Bush's tax cuts expire on those making more than $250,000 per year.
Giuliani used his appearance to continue criticizing the Democratic candidates, contending that their plans amount to socialized medicine.
"We've got to solve our health care problem with American principles, not the principles of socialism," he said. "I know Democrats will say this is unfair, I know they'll squeal... But I'm a realist. I face reality, which is: if you take more people and have government cover it, it's called socialized medicine."
He argued that Edwards' plan would cost twice what the Democratic candidate estimated.
Giuliani also spoke in favor of tort reform, saying those who are legitimately injured by doctors should be compensated, but damages should be capped and those who file frivolous lawsuits should have to pay the physician's legal fees.
"If a person gets injured, he should be compensated, but he shouldn't get the brass ring or win the lottery," Giuliani said.
The New Yorker leads in several national polls, but trails Republican rival Mitt Romney by double digits in a recent New Hampshire survey.