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McCain Health Care Proposal Focuses On Cost Containment

Armen Hareyan's picture

Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday at the Des Moines, Iowa, chapter of Rotary Internationalannounced details of his health care proposal, which seeks to expandhealth insurance to more U.S. residents and reduce costs, the Des Moines Register reports. Among other provisions, the proposal would:

  • Revisethe Medicare reimbursement system to pay providers for diagnosis,prevention and care coordination but not for preventable medical errorsor mismanagement (Witosky, Des Moines Register, 10/12);
  • Require pharmaceutical companies and health care providers to make their prices available to patients;
  • Promote efforts to improve the treatment of chronic diseases;
  • Promotethe market entry of lower-cost generic medications and biotechnologytreatments and establish a system to allow safe prescription drugreimportation (Santora, New York Times, 10/12); and
  • Promote retail health clinics (Pearson, Chicago Tribune, 10/12).

Inaddition, the proposal would provide tax credits of $2,500 tolower-income individuals and $5,000 to lower-income families to helpthem purchase private health insurance. Under the proposal, residentscould purchase health insurance in any state through organizations,associations, employers or health insurers. The proposal would notrequire residents to obtain health insurance (Carey, CQ HealthBeat, 10/11).

McCaindid not estimate the cost of the proposal but said he would end aprovision in the tax code that allows employers to deduct the cost ofhealth insurance to help pay for the plan (New York Daily News,10/12). In addition, McCain said that he would seek to enactlegislation to eliminate frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits andexcessive damage awards to help reduce costs.


McCain said that the "genuinely conservative" proposal "preserves the most essential value of American lives -- freedom" (Des Moines Register,10/12). According to McCain, the proposal seeks to promote "paying onlyfor quality medical care, having insurance choices that are diverse andresponsive to individual needs and restoring our sense of personalresponsibility" (CQ HealthBeat, 10/11). He added, "Youworry about the uninsured, but they are a symptom of a larger problem.Unless you do something about cost, you are chasing your proverbialtail" (New York Times, 10/12).

McCain alsocriticized the health care proposals of Democratic presidentialcandidates as attempts at a "one-size-fits-all, big government takeover of health care" (CQ HealthBeat, 10/11). He said that the proposal recently announced by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) is "eerily" similar to the plan she proposed in the 1990s. He added, "I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig" (New York Times, 10/12).

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DNC Reaction

According to the Democratic National Committee,the McCain proposal would not reduce costs significantly or extendhealth insurance to a significant number of residents. In addition, theproposal would "gut" laws in 44 states that require health insurers tocover emergency care, direct access to obstetricians and gynecologists,and other services, DNC said (CQ HealthBeat, 10/12).


"Riding low in the polls, it seems, has allowed" McCain to "take somepolicy risks," and his health care proposal displays the "politicalcreativity that animated his presidential bid in 2000," a Wall Street Journaleditorial states. McCain "comes out on top" among Republicanpresidential candidates on the issue of health insurance regulationbecause he would allow residents to "purchase policies across statelines," according to the editorial.

In addition, although McCain"takes a false regulatory lunge when he says he wants prescription drugreimportation ... he's on firmer ground when he emphasizes medicalmalpractice reform," the editorial states.

McCain also is theonly Republican candidate to "confront America's runaway entitlementspending" through the replacement of "Medicare's creakingfee-for-service model" with a system in which health care providersreceive reimbursements based on performance, the editorial states.According to the editorial, the proposal would "leave the beneficiarystructure intact," but revisions to the "payment architecture could beused as a lever to move Medicare toward a defined-contribution healthcare model."

The editorial adds that the proposal "solidifies the intellectual progress conservatives have made" on health care (Wall Street Journal, 10/12).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.