Media Highlights Affordable Health Insurance Options

Armen Hareyan's picture
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In broader pieces on the economy and taxes, two newspapers recently addressed parts of the health care proposals of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). Summaries appear below.

Los Angeles Times: The Times examined how, as the "faltering economy has catapulted to the top of the presidential campaign agenda," McCain and Obama "have both said they want to make health care more affordable" and accessible, but they "have laid out far different paths to achieving these goals." According to the Times, Obama "is calling for government to do more to address the nation's ills," and "McCain is embracing the traditional GOP faith in free-market solutions," a difference that "gives voters a stark choice." The Obama proposal "leans hard on government action to make insurance more affordable and, ultimately, universally available," and the plan would "make coverage mandatory for children, expand federal subsidies for the uninsured and impose new funding requirements on employers," the Times reports. In contrast, "McCain, in his health plan, shuns that infusion of government money and authority" and "instead would rely on market competition to drive down costs," through the establishment of "new tax incentives for individuals to get their own health insurance" and by reducing the "incentives for people to get insurance through their employers," according to the Times (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 6/15).

San Francisco Chronicle: The Chronicle examines how Obama and McCain "offer voters a stark if orthodox choice on the economy" and health care. The current "economic situation ... may leave orthodox remedies outdated," as "escalating health care spending for an aging population will pitch the next president into choices not nearly as palatable as either candidate's campaign promises imply," according to the Chronicle. According to the Chronicle, the tax increases that Obama has proposed "would raise $700 billion over a decade," but "that may not cover Obama's other still-vague economic plans, such as expanding health insurance to everyone who needs it." In contrast, McCain has proposed tax reductions that would "reduce revenue by $600 billion over 10 years," a plan that "ignores the government's voracious need for taxes to pay for government health care programs," the Chronicle reports (Lochhead, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/15).

Summaries of two recent editorials related to health care in the presidential election appear below.

Los Angeles Times: Obama and McCain, despite the current economic downturn and federal budget deficit, "aren't even paying lip service to curbing the deficit" or the cost of entitlement programs, according to a Times editorial. Both "men's campaigns have laid out strategies for addressing the budget problems," but those proposals are "just not that credible," as economists "agree that the rising costs of debt service and entitlements -- particularly retiree benefits and health insurance for the poor -- are at the heart of the problem and that they'll become completely unmanageable within a few decades if left unchecked," the editorial states. According to the editorial, "in the time-honored tradition of presidential campaigns, neither McCain nor Obama has called for curbs on Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid," and both have "made dubious assertions that health care reform would also slow entitlement spending" (Los Angeles Times, 6/15).

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Obama "didn't come to St. Louis to walk the fault line in modern medicine," but "that's essentially what happened" when he visited with heart patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital last week, according to a Post-Dispatch editorial. The editorial states, "One of those problems" of the "incredible technological prowess of modern medicine" is cost, which was "at the center of Mr. Obama's public remarks and of the Republican response," the editorial continues. According to the editorial, Obama "touted his voluntary national health insurance plan that he said would make care more accessible and affordable to millions of middle-class Americans," a proposal that McCain has "criticized ... as expensive and unwieldy." The editorial states, "Insurance works best when it allows the greatest number of people to pool their risks," which is "why a national health insurance program like Medicare makes sense," but "Obama's plan falls short of that" because the proposal "wouldn't provide universal coverage." However, "his idea of widening the insurance pool and protecting the growing number of families who face economic disaster should serious illness strike is a big step in the right direction," the editorial concludes (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6/15).

Opinion Pieces

Summaries of several recent opinion pieces related to health care in the presidential election appear below.

David Broder, Washington Post: "Sixteen years after he shook up American politics by launching an impromptu campaign for president, Ross Perot is about to dip a toe back into the public debates" on the cost of entitlement programs and other economic issues, Post columnist Broder writes. Those "who go to http://www.perotcharts.com will find the Dallas billionaire waiting to challenge them on one of his favorite subjects -- the' ruin' he says America is courting with its spendthrift ways," Broder writes, adding, "Perot is not offering any solutions," but "he is clearly pointing to what he says are the culprits, the big entitlements -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid." The Web site cites the need to address the cost of entitlement programs, Broder writes, adding, "So far, John McCain and Barack Obama are not doing that" (Broder, Washington Post, 6/15).

Sandra Day O'Connor/James Jones, Washington Post: The U.S. must "consult our young" on the "approaching tsunami of retirement and health care spending ... precipitated by a combination of aging baby boomers and abnormally high health costs," O'Connor, a retired associate justice for the U.S. Supreme Court, and Jones, a former ambassador to Mexico, write in a Post opinion piece. The authors write, "The Government Accountability Office and many, many others have documented the magnitude of the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid bills that will come due over the next several decades," and the "more troubling outcomes" include "shifting even greater burdens onto the young and endangering the living standards of everyone else in the process." According to the authors, the "larger and more urgent task" than efforts to reduce the cost of Social Security "is health reform." The authors write, "In the interests of effective cost control, Medicare beneficiaries in particular must be prepared to embrace sensible limits on the way their health care is provided," adding, "Halting runaway medical inflation represents a potential victory for all generations" (O'Connor/Jones, Washington Post, 6/16).

Ellen Lutch Bender, Boston Globe: "No single reform would do as much to improve the wealth of our nation and the lives of Americans as a comprehensive overhaul of our health care system," Bender, president and CEO of Bender Strategies, writes in a Globe opinion piece. However, the "best chance of swift and major reform may have died with the end" of the campaign of former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), according to Bender. She adds, "Clinton kept health care on the front burner, promising action in her first term," and, since she suspended her campaign, the issue "has already slipped as the top domestic concern, a position it held earlier in the campaign for the first time since the last Clinton campaign in 1992." Bender writes that Obama and McCain "have reform plans that take divergent paths, neither of which is as comprehensive as Clinton's." She adds, "There are three areas the next president must focus on, and all three must be in balance: making sure every American has health insurance, improving the quality of care and controlling costs" (Bender, Boston Globe, 6/16).

Merrill Matthews, Washington Times: "While much of the health care reform debate centers on the 47 million uninsured Americans, there is an equally important subgroup that must be part of the solution -- the uninsurable," Matthews, executive director of the Council for Affordable Health Insurance and a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation, writes in a Washington Times opinion piece. "What critics almost never say is that very few people are ever denied coverage -- or can be, for that matter" -- as "the vast majority" of U.S. residents receive health insurance through their employers or public programs, Matthews writes. "If an individual can buy health insurance at any time, many would wait until they need health care to buy coverage," which is "one of the reasons ... Clinton wanted to force everyone to buy coverage," according to Matthews. He adds that the "public policy challenge is to find a way to provide coverage to the uninsurable without destroying the individual health insurance market." According to Matthews, the "best solution is to let the health insurance market work for the vast majority of Americans and create a safety net for those who can't get coverage," which is "what ... McCain's 'Guaranteed Access Plan' (GAP) tries to do." He writes, "If we want a market-based health care system, and John McCain apparently does, high-risk pools are the most effective way to address the safety-net problem of the uninsurable," and the "debate should be over how to make the pools better because a heavy-handed government-run system is not a good or affordable alternative" (Matthews, Washington Times, 6/16).

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