By JON BANISTER
WASHINGTON—Former Maryland Gov. Martin OMalley unveiled his healthcare plan Tuesday, aiming to improve on the Affordable Care Act and expand health coverage.
The Democrat, whose presidential campaign has released several policy proposals with ambitious goals but has struggled to rise in the polls, wants to ensure health coverage for 95 percent of Americans by 2020. The health coverage rate in 2014 was just below 90 percent.
For too many Americans, quality and affordable health care remains out of reach, OMalleys plan says. Even as the Affordable Care Act has brought access to millions of Americans, there are others who have yet to benefit.
The 10-page plan calls for cracking down on pharmaceutical company mergers like the recent Pfizer-Allergan deal. It would also tackle price-gauging and aim to prevent drug companies from hiking prices as Turing Pharmaceuticals did with the drug Diaphrim, raising the price of a pill from $13.50 to $750.
OMalleys plan touted his record of improving healthcare during his eight years in Annapolis. Maryland was ranked 16th in the United Health Foundations ranking of the healthiest states in 2014, up from 31st when OMalley was elected in 2006.
Stephen Thomas, director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland, praised OMalleys plan for addressing minority populations.
What I see in this plan reflects some of the best of the Maryland model, and that includes addressing racial and ethnic minority populations who around the country suffer a disparity in health coverage, Thomas said.
We are a model to other states to show that if we want to move the needle in health coverage we must address health disparities of racial minorities, he added.
Thomas called OMalleys goal of reaching a 95 percent health coverage rate achievable.
Not only do I think its achievable, it is a goal worthy of our time and effort, Thomas said. Anything less is not worthy of our time.
OMalleys plan also promotes universal access to reproductive health care for women, and addresses mental illness and addiction.
OMalleys two opponents in the Democratic presidential contest have also released health plans.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders advocates moving to single-payer health care, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton focuses on making improvements to the current health care law, often referred to as Obamacare.
Republicans have continually called for repealing the law, but have not made it a central focus of the 2016 race as it was in many 2014 Senate contests.
The Supreme Court in June gave the Obama administration a victory by ruling that Americans in the 34 states without state health care exchanges are eligible for federal tax credits.