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Edwards's healthcare plan entails tax increase

WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards said yesterday that his plan for universal health care would require higher taxes and cost up to $120 billion year.

"We're asking everybody to share in the responsibility of making health care work in this country," the 2004 vice presidential nominee said.

"Yes, we'll have to raise taxes. The only way you can pay for a health care plan that costs anywhere from $90 [billion] to $120 billion is there has to be a revenue source," the former North Carolina senator said.

Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Edwards said his plan would aim to provide healthcare coverage for the 47 million people who currently lack it. He said it also would reduce the cost of health coverage for middle-class families, partly by making health care programs more efficient.

Edwards cited health care insurance premiums that have risen 90 percent over the past decade.

"Here's the bottom line: We want to make sure everybody's covered. We want to help middle-class families with the cost. We want to try to create competition that doesn't exist today," he said.

To accomplish all this, Edwards said, he would expand Medicaid and a program that now provides coverage to 6 million people, mostly children. He would also provide federal health care subsidies. He said he wants employers to play a bigger role, either by offering coverage or buying into "health markets" that would include a government plan.

Edwards said he would free up money for health care coverage by abolishing President Bush's tax cuts for people who make more than $200,000 a year and by having the government collect more back taxes. On war in Iraq, Edwards sought to differentiate himself from another leading candidate, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

Edwards, who served on the Senate's intelligence committee, repeated earlier statements that his vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq was a mistake. "My vote was wrong and I take responsibility for it," he said, adding that voters should reward a politician who openly admits past mistakes.

Clinton, who also voted to authorize force, has said "there are no do-overs in life." She says Congress received bad information from the administration and she would have voted differently given what she knows now.