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Universal Themes

American HealthCare Party takes pulse of senate race "It's inevitable that we will have universal health care," says Steven B. Larchuk. "The question is, what will it look like and how long will we have to wait?"

Larchuk, 49, isn't waiting for the Democrats or Republicans to add it to their platforms this summer. Universal health care -- medical coverage for everyone, paid through a dedicated government fund fueled by taxes -- is practically the only thing on the platform of the new American HealthCare Party, formed in Western Pennsylvania with the announcement on April 7 of Larchuk's own candidacy for U.S. Senate.


The party hopes to recruit candidates for state rep in every district too. Its recruitment rules state that candidates must be willing to discuss no other issue save health-care reform.

A resident of Independence Township in Beaver County and a political novice, Larchuk is a lawyer who spent the first 15 years of his practice defending doctors and hospitals against malpractice suits and the last seven representing patients and their families in the same sort of litigation, most recently with Greystone Legal Associates in Sewickley. He's also married to a physician. The HealthCare Party's plan includes malpractice reform, but having all medical bills paid by the government eliminates half the need to sue anyone for medical mistakes, he says: "I [will] put myself out of business. I don't mind that because the system is so terribly broken I can't bear to be a part of it anymore."


The major two political parties "never really want to go out on a limb and offer a specific plan" for universal health care, he says. The HealthCare Party's chosen limb sprouts a set of new taxes and fees to pay for their plan. Among them: a 10 percent sales tax on all goods and services except rents and mortgages, college costs, the first $50 cost of a single clothing item and the first $10,000 cost of a car. The plan also exempts health-promoting items like vitamins, exercise equipment and club fees, as well as "nutritious foods." A "Wellness Tax on hazardous activities" of 10 percent more hits the purchase of guns, booze, nicotine, motorcycles, ATVs and junk food.

In addition, workers would have 4.5 percent withheld from their pay, and their employers would contribute the same amount.


All of this, Larchuk says, will add up to $1.6 trillion -- what Americans already pay for health care, but now covering everyone, and in a much more equitable and sensible way.

"This exact plan is unlikely to pass," Larchuk says. "But it is a starting point."

Larchuk's political opponents are long-time Republican incumbent Arlen Specter, even-more-Republican Pat Toomey. "I come at this problem more from the right than from the left," says Larchuk of his party's sole issue. Left-wingers interested in social justice are already a natural constituency, he figures; it's the business-oriented right wing that needs to be won over. "This issue is as important or even more important to business than it is to employees or to citizens," he says, pointing to double-digit increases in health insurance costs in recent years. Government-paid health costs will reduce the price tag for auto and other insurance that have medical costs built in.


"This is a political barn raising," Larchuk promises. "When it's over" -- when universal health care is achieved -- "the HealthCare Party has served its purpose and goes away."