Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama on Health Care and the Financial Crisis

  • Before the general election season, health care advocates felt assured that the candidates would vigorously debate reforming America's health care system. Now, the financial system crisis has eclipsed health care as the number one domestic issue, and that situation may remain through Election Day, November 4. Fulfilling the need for quality, affordable health care is very real to most Americans, especially 46 million who lack health insurance.

    The good news is that both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have offered proposals aimed to improve health care access and affordability. However, their approaches are starkly different.

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    Senator McCain's general approach would:
    • provide a $5000 tax credit for families ($2500 for individuals) tax credit for the purchase of medical insurance;
    • remove favorable tax treatment of employer-sponsored insurance;
    • offer a "guaranteed access plan," for individuals who are denied insurance coverage because they are deemed "medically uninsurable" .
    • contain costs through tort reform, changing payments to providers and other measures to make health insurance more affordable.

    Senator Obama proposes to increase access to care by offering citizens choices and options. His plan would generally address improving access by:
    • requiring health insurance coverage for all children
    • requiring employers to offer health benefits to employees or pay into a new public program
    • expanding Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and
    • offering insurance to small businesses and individuals through a new public program that is similar to Medicare.

    Each approach has supporters and detractors. Some predict that Senator McCain's approach will not appreciably reduce the number of uninsured, while others say that Senator Obama's approach simply increases the role of government and taxpayer expenses without guaranteeing improvements to the system. To date, neither candidate has to date forecast the impact of the recent government bailout of the nation's financial institutions on his planned health care reforms. We can safely predict that $700 billion flowing to the banks will force the next President to downgrade other priorities.

    What is your take on future health care reform? As the next President approaches his first budget, what are the most urgent reforms needed for asthma and allergy patients?


Published On: September 30, 2008