Teresa Heinz Kerry stumps for her husband in St. Louis County

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

PINE LAWN, Mo. -- The wife of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry told a crowd at a community health clinic Tuesday that her husband wants to expand the reach of health care to more people while preserving choice for patients and physicians.

Teresa Heinz Kerry spoke to a crowd of about 100 people at the North Central Community Health Center, which serves the poor and uninsured, among others, in St. Louis County. She denounced the increase in working Americans who have lost health-care coverage, or who never had it to begin with.

"A person who works two jobs deserves to be respected. A person who works one full-time job, who works hard, deserves to be respected. Just because they don't earn a huge salary doesn't mean they don't deserve respect and a healthy life," Heinz Kerry said.

The center offers St. Louis County residents everything from lead-poisoning screenings and classes on diabetes to pediatric services and testing for sexually transmitted diseases on a sliding-fee scale. It receives about 1,000 visits each month.

Heinz Kerry said that Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards, would make sure that all children in the United States have health coverage and would increase federal income guidelines for seniors and families so more would be eligible for state and federal health programs.

Heinz Kerry said that under Kerry's plan, the federal government would pay 75 percent of employees' catastrophic health care costs for companies and small businesses that agree to participate in programs emphasizing wellness and preventive health care.

A Bush campaign spokesman, Missouri Republican Rep. Kenny Hulshof, said Kerry is blocking Bush's "medical liability reform plan that would expand health-care access and lower health insurance costs for Missourians."

"The fact is, frivolous lawsuits drive up the cost of health care for all Missourians," Hulshof said. "Medical liability reform could save between $60 billion and $108 billion in health-care costs annually, making health insurance more affordable for millions."

Missouri is one of 16 states that began charging a fee or increased insurance premiums for lower-income families enrolled in the State Children's Health Insurance Program, according to a study released Monday by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Affordable health care also has emerged as a major issue in state and congressional races. According to a report by the state Insurance Department, 11 percent of Missourians were uninsured in 2003, compared with 11.6 percent the previous year. The department said most Missourians' monthly insurance premiums increased by 8.7 percent over the last year.

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