Wednesday, October 8, 2008

OK. I do not think that either Candidate understands the problem... but here is their positions on heathcare from the debate.

McCain, Obama Compete to Revamp U.S. Health Insurance System
By Aliza Marcus

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) -- John McCain and Barack Obama clashed in their second debate over who would do more to provide affordable health care, with each accusing the other of hiding the real costs of his plan.

Republican McCain said Obama ``will fine you'' if you're a parent who can't afford insurance for your children. Democrat Obama said his rival ``doesn't tell you he's going to tax your employer-based health-care benefits for the first time ever.''

Both presidential candidates pledged during their debate yesterday in Nashville, Tennessee, to keep health care a priority even in tough economic times. The $2.2 trillion U.S. health-care system makes up 16 percent of the economy while leaving about 15 percent of the population uninsured.

Senator McCain of Arizona says he would make health insurance more affordable by giving everyone a tax credit to help pay for it. Senator Obama of Illinois says he would bar insurers from turning anyone down because of poor health and provide government subsidies to guarantee coverage as good as Congress gets. Who would benefit from each plan is debated by economists, employers and health-policy experts.

``Obama's plan generally helps people who have difficulty getting insurance because of health conditions or whose incomes make it harder for them to afford coverage,'' said Roberton Williams, a researcher with the Tax Policy Center in Washington. ``McCain's plan is likely to help more those who are reasonably healthy and don't get insurance on the job.''

For 54-year-old farmer Richard Williams of Tipton, Missouri, McCain's plan is the winner. Williams would get a $2,500-a-year tax credit, more than enough to pay the $2,164 annual premium for his individual health plan, although not the $5,600 deductible. Still, he's not holding his breath that either candidate will deliver on revamping health care.

``I'm just going to keep plugging away until I'm 65 and get Medicare,'' said Williams in a telephone interview. ``That's a sure thing.''

The family of 9-year-old Logan Swaim in Resaca, Georgia, might do better with Democrat Obama. Humana Inc. refused to insure Logan because he had seen an endocrinologist and was diagnosed with ``short stature,'' according to his mother, Theresa. Tom Noland, a spokesman for Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana, said in an e-mail that he would look into the case.
Although Theresa Swaim's husband recently found a job with health benefits for the entire family, they may gain under Obama's proposal that those with pre-existing conditions, such as Logan, could never be turned down again. Logan's parents, raising four kids on about $40,000 a year, also would qualify for help in paying their half of employer-provided coverage that they say costs about $16,000 a year.

McCain's plan would also save them money through its $5,000 tax credit for families. Like Williams, Logan's mother, a substitute teacher, is skeptical either candidate can deliver on his health platform.

``I don't think anybody can promise universal health care,'' she said.
Obama, 47, would mandate that employers provide insurance or pay into a fund to subsidize care for low-income families, require that all children be covered and create a government-run plan as an option for individuals and small businesses.

McCain, 72, would allow insurers to sell policies across state lines, provide federal aid to state pools for people who can't get private coverage because of their health and provide everyone a tax credit to buy coverage. In exchange, he would require that workers pay income tax on health benefits provided by employers.

In yesterday's debate, McCain portrayed Obama's plan as built around ``government mandates.''
```If you're a small-business person and you don't insure your employees, Senator Obama will fine you,'' McCain said. ``Will fine you. That's remarkable.''
Obama responded that small businesses would get a tax credit to help them afford insurance for their workers. He told the audience at the televised town hall meeting, ``If you've got a health care plan that you like, you can keep it.''
The Democrat said McCain's tax on employer benefits would undercut his promised tax credits. ``So what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away,'' Obama said.
``Do the math,'' McCain responded. Under his proposal, 95 percent of Americans would come out ahead, McCain said.
McCain's plan would cost $1.3 trillion over 10 years, according to the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution. Obama's plan was estimated at $1.6 trillion. The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit group in New York, estimated that over the same period, Obama's plan would reduce the projected 67 million uninsured by 34 million, compared with a 2 million decrease under McCain.

While the candidates said in the debate that they would press ahead with their health-care plans, the financial crisis on Wall Street and the government's $700 billion rescue package reduces the chance that either of them will be able to make big changes anytime soon, said Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates in Alexandria, Virginia.

``After what happened over the past month, where's anybody going to get the money?'' he said. ``The chances of health reform happening next year are now about zero.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Aliza Marcus in Washington at

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