WASHINGTON--Democrat Michael Dukakis proposed a broad health insurance program for American workers Tuesday and told Republican rival George Bush, "it's about time you came out from behind that flag" and addressed the issue. Meanwhile, Bush visited the nation's largest flag manufacturer.
Campaign aides said the first phase of Dukakis' program would give benefits to about 22 million people who have none, leaving 15 million or more Americans still awaiting protection under a national health insurance plan.
Bush campaign aides derided Dukakis' plan as "socialized medicine" and "a prescription for financial disaster."
Criticizing Bush for what he said was a record of neglect and indifference on health care issues, Dukakis said, "today he's visiting a flag factory. Mr. Bush, don't you think it's about time you came out from behind that flag and told us what you intend to do to provide basic health care for 37 million of our fellow citizens?"
Dukakis, the son of a physician, said he intends to make sure that when Americans get sick, "the first question they hear will be the question my father used to ask--the question that doctors and nurses ask every day--not `how can you pay?' but `where does it hurt?'"
Dukakis' health adviser, Dr. David Blumenthal of Boston, said the campaign had no estimate of how much Dukakis' plan would cost employers. If elected, Dukakis will appoint a task force to report by March 30, 1989, on legislation that would guarantee universal health coverage, extending benefits to every American, working or not, the campaign said.
"This is socialized medicine and as such is a prescription for financial disaster," said Bush press spokesman Mark Goodin.
Goodin said more than 82 percent of Americans under 65 are insured under private or Medicaid-type health insurance. He said that 75 percent of the work force is covered by employer health insurance.
"The answer is for government to find ways to bring down the cost of health insurance and to make it more affordable and available, but not to mandate an outrageously expensive program that in other countries has already proved itself to be absolutely the wrong way to go," Goodin said.
With their first debate just five days away, Dukakis campaigned in Houston and Bowling Green, Ky., while Bush made a brief campaign hop to Bloomfield, N.J., to visit the Annin Flag Company.
"My friends, flag sales are doing well and America is doing well," said Bush. But outside the plant, loudspeakers could not project the vice president's voice above the shouts of several dozen protesters.
Bush also said Dukakis had "raised taxes several times as governor of Massachusetts and I belive he will raise them again if you elect him president."