McCain Set To Detail Plans for Health Care Overhaul
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) on Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, plans to announce a health care proposal that would seek to expand coverage through tax incentives and give people "more control and more choices," the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (Sidoti, AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/11).
According to the Wall Street Journal, unlike other presidential candidates, McCain's plan would focus on controlling health care costs rather that reducing the number of uninsured residents. The Journal reports that McCain's strategy "could provide a compelling argument for voters," as the "majority of whom have health insurance but may be frustrated with rising premiums, copayments and other out-of-pocket costs." In addition, consensus is growing that the current rate of health spending growth is unsustainable and something must be done to control health costs, according to the Journal (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 10/11).
Among other provisions, the proposal would:
- Provide veterans with an electronic health care card that allows them to visit any health care provider;
- Revise the Medicare reimbursement system to pay providers for diagnosis, prevention and care coordination but not for preventable medical errors or mismanagement;
- Promote retail health clinics (AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/11);
- Offer "new incentives for both patients and doctors to emphasize prevention and wellness" (Santora, New York Times, 10/11);
- Shift some health care from physicians to lower-cost nurse practitioners; and
- Promote the market entry of lower-cost generic medications and biotechnology treatments (Wall Street Journal, 10/11).
In addition, the proposal would seek to expand health insurance to more U.S. residents. The proposal would provide tax credits of $2,500 to lower-income individuals and $5,000 to lower-income families to help purchase private health insurance. Under the proposal, residents could purchase health insurance in any state through organizations, associations, employers or health insurers. However, the proposal would not require residents to obtain health insurance.
Aides for McCain did not estimate the cost of the proposal but said McCain would end a provision in the tax code that allows employers to deduct the cost of health insurance to help pay for the plan. In addition, they said that McCain would seek to enact legislation to eliminate frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits and excessive damage awards to help reduce costs.
In a statement, McCain said, "We are approaching a 'perfect storm' of problems that if not addressed by the next president will cause our health care system to implode," adding, "I offer a genuinely conservative vision for health care reform, which preserves the most essential value of American lives -- freedom" (AP/Long Island Newsday, 10/11).
Gail Wilensky, a health care policy expert at Project Hope, said, "There's been too much focus on the uninsured, not that it's not important," adding, "If there is a crisis ... it is much more the unsustainable spending."
According to Robert Blendon, a health care policy and public opinion expert at the Harvard School of Public Health, "While everybody is worried about the problem (of rising costs) in the abstract, the cures can look very threatening." He added, "People have not found a politically acceptable way to defeat the problem" (Wall Street Journal, 10/11).