Presidential candidate John Edwards has released his health care proposal, and I'll try to hit the main points here, with the disclaimer up front that I will echo a lot of what Ezra Klein has said on the American Prospect blog.
First of all, health care is still tied to the employer, but not really. Employers have an obligation to purchase health care for every employee either through their current practices or through a "health market," which is a non-profit purchasing pool that offers both private plans and a public one modeled after Medicare. The benefits of these "health markets" are obvious: every employed person has access to public health care if he or she so desires, "health markets" can use economies of scale to get lower premiums, and the competition between public and private plans within a "health market" will drive down prices. There is even the possibility of a single-payer future. As the Edwards plan puts it, "This American solution will reward the sector that offers the best care at the best price. Over time, the system may evolve toward a single-payer approach if individuals and businesses prefer the public plan."
It's a fairly neat mix of the public sector and the private sector, and it relies on the market to drive down costs instead of government protections, so it might have some appeal to Republicans. But what about Americans who don't have jobs? They will be given tax credits so they will be able to purchase their own plan through the same "health markets" the business use. Also, Medicaid will be expanded to insure low-income Americans are taken care of.
You can read the whole thing in PDF format here. There's a whole bunch of stuff in there about how Edwards plans on helping doctors do their jobs better and more inexpensively, but because that part matters less to the vast majority of Americans, it will probably get little coverage. It will be interesting to see how the insurance lobby reacts to all this.