Barack Obama describes John McCain's health care proposal as "radical." Tribune health care reporter Judith Graham and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman
concur. McCain himself obviously disagrees. But according to a new study
(PDF) by the Economic Policy ...
Barack Obama describes John McCain's health care proposal as "radical." Tribune health care reporter Judith Graham and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman concur. McCain himself obviously disagrees. But according to a new study (PDF) by the Economic Policy Institute, the Arizona senator doesn't have much ground to stand on. EPI asserts that his plan will make it radically more difficult for Illinoisans to receive affordable medical care:
At the state level we find that the state of Illinois would see 848,281 people lose employer-sponsored health insurance under the McCain plan, and virtually all of these people would be forced to buy health insurance in the expensive and chaotic private insurance market. This means that 11.1% of people in Illinois who currently have employer-sponsored health insurance.
How does McCain's plan work? Currently, most Americans receive their insurance through their employer, largely because the tax code is written so that an employer’s contribution to insurance premiums is not taxed. McCain wants to change that by taxing those health insurance benefits. Non-partisan analysts estimate that up to 20 million Americans will be dropped from their current plans if employers have no tax incentive to provide medical benefits. According to EPI's state-by-state analysis, almost one million of those workers will come from Illinois.
McCain does provide a safety net for those dropped in the form of a refundable tax credit -- $2,500 for an individual, $5,000 for a family -- that can be used on the open market. He also argues that the cost of care is driven up by varying state regulations, a problem he hopes to ameliorate by creating a relaxed national regulatory structure.
There are a few problems here. One is that private insurance companies refuse to cover anyone with a pre-existing medical conditions -- you know, the ones who need insurance the most. The second problem is that the average employer benefit package costs $12,500 dollars, a considerable amount more than McCain's tax credit provides. Some conservatives argue that the additional $7,000 will be paid out in wage increases, an idea that's entirely possible but not something to depend on, especially considering companies could just pocket their newfound savings. Finally, while gutting state regulations could lower costs, it comes with a host of other concerns. "The McCain plan would do for health care what deregulation has done for banking," writes Krugman. "And I’m terrified"
Thankfully, we do have an alternative. Outside analysts contend that Barack Obama's plan is decidedly better at providing affordable care to more Americans. Yesterday, joining fellow Illinois lawmaker Jan Schakowsky and 70 others, the Illinois senator also signed the Health Care for America Now (HCAN) statement declaring "that he is on the side of quality, affordable health care for all and opposed to leaving Americans on their own with unregulated health insurance." From an HCAN press release:
"We applaud Senator Barack Obama for his courage and leadership in focusing on this issue," said William McNary, co-director of Citizen Action IL and USAction president. "Quality, affordable health care for all is a key human rights issue - transcending race, class, gender, and geography. At a time when people are losing their jobs and losing their homes, it's our moral obligation to provide health care security for these families. HCAN is fighting to provide security for our families and stability for businesses and workers and to ensure a new prosperity for all Americans."
For some opposing viewpoints on the HCAN campaign, check out the responses from Chicago-based single payer advocates Quentin Young and Nicholas Skala, who also penned a Progress Illinois column on how single payer health care could be instituted in Illinois.