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NEW YORK (AP) — Presidential hopeful Howard Dean, a physician-turned-politician looking to become the Democratic authority on health care, unveiled an $88 billion plan Tuesday that would provide coverage for all Americans up to age 25 and expand coverage for uninsured adults.

"This is the best health care proposal I've seen in terms of its ability to pass, its ability to cover people and its price tag," Dean, a former Vermont governor, contended.

Rival Dick Gephardt announced last month that upon taking office he would push legislation requiring all employers to insure their workers. The Missouri congressman would reimburse companies for 60 percent of their health care costs and repeal Bush's tax cuts to pay the $200 billion-plus annual cost.

On Tuesday, Dean said his plan would insure the same number of people — about 97 percent of Americans — at nearly a third of the annual cost.

Dean said he would provide health coverage to everyone up to age 25 by expanding existing government programs for low income families — Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program or SCHIP.

He would expand SCHIP to cover adults who earn up to 185 percent of the poverty level and allow other uninsured adults to buy into the health care plan identical to the one available to federal employees.

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