A Heartbeat Away: Hazardous Health-Care Policy

Isaiah J. Poole

The health care plan advocated by presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is hazardous to your health. That is the point of this 30-second video by Health Care for America Now that succinctly hits its key flaws: It taxes the health benefits people get from their jobs, thereby undermining the employer-based system through which millions of workers get their care; it will require consumers to negotiate on their own with insurance companies; and will allow insurance companies to continue to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.

Here’s the text of the video:

Hi. How’re you feeling?

Have you heard about John McCain’s health care plan? He wants to tax the health care you get from your employer. He wants to get rid of employer-based insurance — the insurance most people have. He wants everyone to negotiate individually with the insurance companies. The insurance companies won’t be required to cover anybody with pre-existing conditions.

How’re you feeling now?

These flaws were most recently detailed in an October 29 analysis by The Washington Post, which wrote that the McCain-endorsed plan would “remove the tax preference for company health benefits and offer Americans tax credits to put toward any health plan they choose. He wants to let people buy health plans from insurance companies anywhere in the country, preempting state regulations that spell out whom insurance carriers must cover and what kinds of benefits they must provide. McCain acknowledges that such a free-market climate would inevitably freeze out some people with serious medical problems who are looking for insurance on their own.” Those people, his campaign says, would have to depend on state-created high-risk pools that have proven to be problematic in many of the states where they have been created.

The New York Times in an editorial on October 29 denounced the McCain plan, warning that its provision to give tax credits of up to $5,000 to be used to buy policies in the private market “would drain federal revenues faster than the tax on employer policies would replenish them.” The Times also said that requiring people to shop for cheaper policies on their ownraises the danger that “chronically ill people may forgo needed treatments.”

The bottom line, The Times concluded, is that McCain’s plan “would jeopardize employer-based coverage without providing an adequate substitute. At a time when so many employers are reducing or dropping coverage, that is not a risk that the country can afford to take.”

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