At the New Leadership on Health Care Presidential Forum in Las Vegas, it was only fitting that the first candidate to lay out a specific plan on healthcare was the first to take the stage at a forum on the very issue.
Former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) briefly discussed his plan to provide universal healthcare at the conference. However, in his first public appearance since announcing his wife Elizabeth had suffered a reoccurrence of cancer, Edwards was forced to put into context how his wife's experiences relate to the national crisis at hand.
"There's been an awful lot of attention focused on the two of us and I think we're getting far too much credit," said Edwards, who acknowledged that millions of women have gone through the same struggles that he and Elizabeth are facing, but with far less resources. "One of the reasons that I want to be president of the United States is to make sure every person in America gets the same kind of things that we have.
"It's not right that a woman has to go through, or anyone has to go through this kind of struggle and have to worry about whether they can afford the medicine they need, whether they can get the healthcare that they need," he continued. "We don't have to worry about that and Americans should have to worry about that."
Edwards is the first Democratic contender to put out a detailed plan to achieve universal healthcare for all Americans. His plan would require companies to cover or finance their employees' health insurance, create health care markets to give people a choice of insurance plans, make insurance affordable with tax credits, expand Medicaid and SCHIP and lastly, require every American to participate by law.
But everything comes at a cost. Edwards' plan is estimated to cost between $90 billion and $120 billion. He quickly cautioned against saying his plan can be achieved without raising taxes.
"They probably got a bridge in Brooklyn they want to sell you too," he said, eliciting laughter from a crowd of several hundred people. And it certainly was a friendly crowd.
All of the presidential contenders were invited to speak at the forum sponsored by the Service Employees International Union and the Center for American Progress Action Fund. None of the Republican contenders attended. Of the seven Democrats who did attend, the majority were in favor of universal healthcare.
Given the focus of the day and recent events, it wasn't long before Edwards was back to defending his choice to continue campaigning, despite his wife's renewed battle with cancer.
When probed about how potential voters may not want to support a candidate with two all-consuming battles, Edwards assured the crowd that he had the "focus and maturity" to continue.
"I love this country. I think we can do so much better than what we're doing now, and we want to serve, both of us, which is why we made the decision to go forward," he added.
For right now, going forward means Edwards will campaign in California, Ohio and Washington, D.C., in the coming days.