Health Care News From the Campaign Trail for the Week of May 2
In a speech at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, McCain detailed his health care proposal and for the first time proposed a plan to help individuals who cannot obtain private health insurance because of pre-existing medical conditions, the Miami Herald reports (Dorschner, Miami Herald, 4/30). The proposal would:
- Replace a tax break for employees who receive health insurance from employers with a refundable tax credit of as much as $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families for the purchase of private coverage;
- Allow the purchase of health insurance across state lines; and
- Establish a Guaranteed Access Plan in which states would offer coverage to individuals unable to obtain private coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions or no prior group coverage (Reichard/Nylen, CQ HealthBeat, 4/29).
During the speech, McCain also discussed proposals to expand the use of health savings accounts and encourage the use of electronic health records and other technologies to reduce costs (Washington Post, 4/30). He also discussed a proposal to "bundle" Medicare reimbursements for all services related to the treatment of a single medical condition (CQ HealthBeat, 4/29).
McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said that the pools could provide health insurance for between five million and seven million individuals and cost between $7 billion and $10 billion annually (Cooper/Sack, New York Times, 4/30).
On Wednesday, the McCain campaign said the proposal could increase taxes for some higher-income individuals and families.
According to Holtz-Eakin, individuals in the highest income tax bracket with family health insurance whose employers contribute at least $14,285 toward premiums would have to pay more in taxes (Sack/Cooper, New York Times, 5/1).
In a statement, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) said that the McCain proposal would eliminate the "policies that hold the employer-based health insurance system together, so while people might have a 'choice' of getting such coverage, employers would have no incentive to provide it" (Quaid, Miami Herald, 4/29).
Hari Sevugan, a spokesperson for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), said, "McCain is recycling the same failed policies that didn't work when George Bush first proposed them and won't work now" (Shear, Washington Post, 4/30).
Clinton, McCain and Obama (D-Ill.) each have announced proposals that seek to reduce health care costs, but "it is unclear how many of the candidates' ideas could actually make a dent in the rising cost of care," the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the Journal, the candidates have proposed similar initiatives to address health care costs, including: providing consumers with more information to allow them to consider the cost and quality of medical treatments when they make health care decisions; promoting the use of generic medications and health care information technology to help reduce costs; and enact some form of medical liability reform.
McCain also has proposed to replace a tax break for employees who receive health insurance from employers with a refundable tax credit for the purchase of private coverage and to allow the purchase of health insurance across state lines -- both of which he maintains would promote competition among health insurers and reduce costs (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 4/28).
Health care and other proposals from each of the candidates could "significantly swell the budget deficit and increase the national debt by trillions of dollars," the New York Times reports.
According to the Times, Clinton and Obama have acknowledged that their proposals "would be costly but have outlined how to pay for them," although "some fiscal monitors say they may be relying on overly rosy projections of how much savings their proposals would actually yield."
Clinton has estimated that her health care proposal would cost about $110 billion annually, and Obama has estimated that his plan would cost as much as $65 billion annually.
McCain has "spoken vaguely about making entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare less costly for the government" to help finance his health care and other proposals, the Times reports (Rohter/Cooper, New York Times, 4/27).
An ad sponsored by the American Leadership Project, a group established by Clinton supporters, states that the Obama health care proposal would leave "as many as 15 million Americans uncovered."
An ad sponsored by the Service Employees International Union states, "Like President Bush, John McCain won't stop rising health care costs." SEIU has not endorsed a presidential candidate but supports Obama. The ad, which has aired in Ohio, continues, "When it comes to making health care affordable ... we'll still be feeling the pain" (Mosk, "The Trail," Washington Post, 4/30).
CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta on Wednesday discussed the health care proposals of the presidential candidates (Gupta, CNN, 4/30).
- Medicare represents a "sacred promise to our seniors and to future generations of American workers," but "the biggest threat" to the program is "skyrocketing health costs," Clinton writes in a Charlotte Observer opinion piece. Clinton writes that Medicare "will be a top priority of my administration" and cites closing the so-called "doughnut hole" in Medicare drug coverage, boosting competition from generic drugs and authorizing reimportation of some prescription drugs as other priorities (Clinton, Charlotte Observer, 4/28).
- At the Miami Children's Hospital on Monday, McCain promoted his health care proposal, which he said would "put families in charge," USA Today reports (Jackson, USA Today, 4/29). McCain said, "I've made it very clear that what I want is for families to make decisions about their health care, not government," which he cited as the major difference between his proposal and the plans announced by Clinton and Obama (Reinhard, Miami Herald, 4/29).
- On Tuesday, the McCain campaign released a new TV ad that focuses on health care. In the ad, which has aired in Iowa, McCain says, "I can characterize my approach on health care by choice and competition, affordability and availability" (Washington Post, 4/30). McCain adds, "The problem with health care in America is not the quality of health care -- it's the availability and the affordability. And that has to do with the dramatic increase in the cost of health care" (Boston Globe, 4/30).
- As part of his "tour of America's health care system," McCain discussed his health care proposal with more than 200 staff members at the Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown, Pa., on Wednesday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. During the visit, McCain cited the cost of health insurance for individuals with chronic diseases who cannot afford private coverage as the largest challenge for expansion of coverage to all U.S. residents. He said that he would work with governors and state legislatures to develop a proposal to help those individuals (Infield, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/1).
- KPCC's "AirTalk" on Wednesday included a discussion about McCain's health plan with Richard Brown of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and Joseph Antos of the American Enterprise Institute (Mantle, "AirTalk," KPCC, 4/30).
- During a visit to the Cleveland Clinic on Thursday, McCain discussed his health care proposal, the Akron Beacon Journal reports. McCain said, "It is not the quality of health care in America that's the problem, it is the cost of health care in America that's the problem" (Wheeler, Akron Beacon Journal, 5/2). In addition, McCain cited the need to focus on preventive care to help reduce health care costs and praised the Cleveland Clinic for the adoption of electronic health records, which he maintained can reduce medical errors, improve quality of care and lead to a reduction in medical malpractice insurance premiums (Vanac, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 5/2).