Reports Seek To Size Up Implications of McCain, Obama Health Plans
Three reports on the health care proposals of Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) question the accuracy of some of the claims that the candidates have made about their plans, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Tax Policy Center compiled one of the reports. According to the center, the report is preliminary because neither campaign has released adequate details about the proposals (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 9/16).
In addition, the Web site of the journal Health Affairs on Tuesday published two reports, an unsolicited analysis of the McCain proposal -- compiled by Thomas Buchmueller of the University of Michigan and colleagues -- and a solicited analysis of the Obama plan -- compiled by health care economists Joseph Antos, Gail Wilensky and Hanns Kuttner (Freking, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16).
The McCain 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 coverage through their employers or the individual market.
Both reports found that the McCain proposal would expand health insurance to about five million of the estimated 45 million uninsured U.S. residents. According to the report from the center, the proposal would cost $1.3 trillion over 10 years.
Both reports estimate that the proposal would prompt about 20 million residents to leave their employer-sponsored health insurance and about 21 million residents to purchase coverage in the private market.
The Health Affairs report states, "Many employers would be quick to drop health benefits in response to a major policy change, such as the McCain plan, that greatly altered the business case for offering benefits."
The report from the center estimated that the number of residents who obtain health insurance under the proposal could increase to as many as five million in the future before a subsequent decrease.
The Health Affairs report also raised concerns that health insurance would become more expensive under the proposal.
In addition, because residents could purchase health insurance across state lines, the proposal could undermine state laws that mandate certain benefits and provide protections for consumers, according to the report.
The Obama proposal would require employers to offer health insurance or pay a percentage of their payrolls into a federal fund to provide coverage, with an exemption for small businesses. The proposal would provide subsidies to lower-income residents to help them obtain coverage.
In addition, the proposal would establish a health insurance "exchange" that would offer residents a choice between private health plans and a public plan. Under the proposal, health insurers would have to accept all applicants, regardless of their health status.
The report from the center estimated that the proposal would expand health insurance to 18 million uninsured residents in the first year and later to 34 million uninsured residents at a cost of $1.6 trillion over 10 years (Wall Street Journal, 9/16).
"Any major expansion of coverage will be costly, and the Obama promise of affordability would require new, large, and rapidly growing federal subsidies that are unlikely to be sustainable, fiscally or politically," according to the report.
In addition, according to the Health Affairs report, the failure of the proposal to address increased health care costs would undermine reductions in the number of uninsured residents in the future (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16).
The proposal would increase "control of government over health insurance, imposing new requirements that will drive up the cost of insurance," according to the report (Wall Street Journal, 9/16). The report also said that the proposal would result in job losses or pay reductions for some residents (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/16).
On Monday, CBS' "Evening News" reported on the McCain and Obama health care proposals. The segment includes comments from Obama, McCain and Len Berman, director of the Tax Policy Center (Andrews, "Evening News," CBS, 9/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.