It's getting down to the wire in this year's crucial presidential election and if you're like me, you've been watching the debates with an eye to what these two candidates are saying about how they would reform our health care system.
To be honest, over the course of three debates I didn't hear very clear-cut specifics. For example, in what state in the U.S. can you get health insurance for 5,000 a year for a family?
John McCain's plan: Remove the favorable tax treatment of employer-sponsored insurance and provide a tax credit to all individuals and families to increase incentives for insurance coverage; promote insurance competition; and contain costs through payment changes to providers, tort reform and other measures.
Barak Obama's plan: Require all children to have health insurance, and employers to offer employee health benefits or contribute to the cost of the new public program. Expand Medicaid and SCHIP and create the National Health Insurance Exchange through which small businesses and individuals without access to other public programs or employer-based coverage could enroll in a new public plan, like Medicare, or in a range of approved private plans.
In dispiriting news, the New York Times says the outcomes of either plans aren't highly predictable: How many of the country's 45 million uninsured would gain coverage under Mr. McCain's plan to reconfigure the tax treatment of health benefits? Consultants paid by Mr. McCain concluded that his plan would cover 27.5 million of the uninsured. But four health economists who looked into the McCain plan at the urging of David Cutler, a health care adviser to Mr. Obama, reached a far different conclusion. They estimated in a peer-reviewed article in the journal Health Affairs that the number of uninsured would grow by 5 million after five years.
How much would it cost for Mr. Obama to offer subsidized health insurance to those with low incomes? Last week, the Lewin Group, a consulting firm, projected the cost to taxpayers at $1.17 trillion over 10 years. That was about 27 percent lower than the $1.6 trillion estimated by the Tax Policy Center, a joint project of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. And it bore little similarity to a $6 trillion estimate - using a broader measurement - put forth by HSI Network, a Minnesota consulting group that was paid $50,000 by the McCain campaign to assess both plans.
They also reported that what either candidate is proposing "...is ultimately unknowable. And the transformational nature of both candidates' health care plans means that they can only guess at the future behavior of consumers, employers and insurers."
Which leads me to a big "Huh?" about a crucial issue. Currently 46 million Americans are uninsured; 9 million of those are children. I want answers and I want them now. I want a plan that is inclusive, affordable and one that makes sense for everyone: families, adults, students, small businesses, the elderly and, yes, the homeless and new immigrants whether they are legal or illegal. If that means that we move toward socialized medicine and health care, then I'm ready for that. Bold to say, I know.
What kind of health care system do you think will work best for the country?
Published On: October 23, 2008