Obama Vs. McCain on the issues: Health Care

This is so dire, folks. I really hope that anyone who is remotely considering voting for McCain or not voting at all hears this one, because if there is anything at all that will kill your budget, here you are.

I’m going to throw a lot of sources at you, because I want you to see that this isn’t some far out rant from the Huffington Post. This is real.

John McCain wants to destroy employer-based health benefits. Is destroy too severe of a term? I don’t think so. Part of McCain’s plan is to tax you for the amount your employer contributes to your health care benefits as if it were income. More on that after this public service moment.

First, you need to see through the carefully constructed terminology he uses on his website:

John McCain Believes The Key To Health Care Reform Is To Restore Control To The Patients Themselves. We want a system of health care in which everyone can afford and acquire the treatment and preventative care they need. Health care should be available to all and not limited by where you work or how much you make. Families should be in charge of their health care dollars and have more control over care…An important part of his plan is to use competition to improve the quality of health insurance with greater variety to match people’s needs, lower prices, and portability…While still having the option of employer-based coverage, every family will receive a direct refundable tax credit – effectively cash – of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to offset the cost of insurance. Families will be able to choose the insurance provider that suits them best and the money would be sent directly to the insurance provider.

What this means: this means that you are on your own. Things like “restoring control to the patients” and “families should be in charge of their health care dollars and have more control over care” sound really nice. What they mean is that you are on your own. Have you ever tried to afford insurance on your own or worked for a small business whose coverage was minimal? I have. Cheap health insurance comes with ungodly deductibles before they even begin to cover doctor visits; caps on prescription drug spending; and bureaucratic nightmares if you need something actually covered. Small business’s insurance policies have similar problems.

The problem is, people often don’t notice these things until they get sick. Or in an accident.

The basic concept behind health insurance is one that is anathema to conservatives like Phil Gramm and John McCain – in theory, everyone pays into a system that disproportionately benefits those who need it most. It’s essentially making the burden of risk and the profit of benefit public. I would argue that conservative philosophy is exactly the opposite – they prefer privatizing profit and have no problem lobbying for the public carrying the burden of risk. This is where health care would go under McCain. Private profit, public risk. Keep repeating that. Private profit, public risk.

So back to the employer benefit and taxation issue. Highlighted in today’s Huffington Post is what is rarely spoken. I’ll quote:

McCain intends to tax workers for the value of health insurance that they receive from their employers. Really. It’s not included in the description of his plan on his web site. It is, however, on the site of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that specializes in health policy…It says McCain would “reform the tax code to eliminate the exclusion of the value of health insurance plans offered by employers from workers’ taxable income.”

Gerard breaks it down in numbers: “The value of the typical plan provided by an employer to a family is $12,106, of which the employer pays $8,824, and the worker pays the remaining $3,282. The median household income is $44,389, which places most American families in the 15 percent income tax bracket. McCain wants to add the employer’s cost — an additional $8,824 — to that middle class family’s income, then tax it. The hit to the average family is 15 percent of the McCain-added income — $1,323 more in income taxes. And since the McCain tax credits are for privately purchased health care ONLY and do not extend to employer-paid benefits, you are literally losing at least $1,323 per year. I just ran the numbers for myself and – as a single person with no dependents, which means less costly health care – I would be looking at a $1300 increase myself.

Know what I don’t have? $1300. It is ridiculous for workers with benefits to be pressured to buy substandard insurance on the market.

Want to read more? I hope you’re outraged. I hope you know where you have over a thousand dollars to cut from your annual budget. Tell people about this. McCain Health Plan Could Mean Higher Tax (NY Times) The Tax Increase McCain Doesn’t Want to Talk About(Washington Monthly) McCain’s Health Care Proposal Will Increase Costs and Reduce Benefits (AFL-CIO) McCain’s $5,000 Promise (FactCheck.org) McCain’s Health-Care Proposal (Businessweek)

What I wish I could give you is more focused discussion of Obama’s health care proposal. Part of the problem is that the majority of time the news spent discussing any of Obama’s proposals/issues were in contention with Clinton. Since then, the news really couldn’t care less about his policy ideas. I’ll give you some info from his website and then add a couple of highlights. God he has so much more specificity on his site than McCain does. It’s beautiful.

I really encourage you to review Obama’s site that I linked to above. The plan is so detailed that I have a hard time summarizing it. But this is my attempt.

The goal is to have a publicly backed health care system. Key elements include guaranteed eligibility, benefits on par with the plan members of Congress have, affordability, subsidies for individuals in need, and accountability on the part of insurance companies. The National Health Insurance Exchange concept is to also allow individuals who want to purchase a private plan – it will act as a watchdog group and create rules/standards (accountability!) for private insurances. They would be required to issue everyone a policy and charge rates that aren’t dependent on health status. Employers must make a contribution, except for small business who can also receive a tax credit to help reduce their health care costs. Mandatory coverage of children. Ensuring Medicaid and SCHIP. Providing a safety net for the cost of catastrophic illnesses for employers/employees IF such savings are used to reduce the cost of workers’ premiums.

You guys, it just keeps going. Go to the site. He addresses women’s issues, civil rights issues in health care, disability/mental illness, technology research, prescription drug companies AND ON AND ON.

This is the man to vote for. He’s got the ideas, he’s got the plan, he needs the platform.

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