There are many reasons for Americans to be concerned with their health insurance, starting with the fact that we pay the most for health insurance and yet are ranked at the bottom of industrialized countries in satisfaction and the number of people covered. According to the Health Affairs report, the costs are only going to rise, to the point where $1 out of every $5 spent will go toward health care. All of us at Miami University are going to come face-to-face with these expenses in a couple years when we are no longer covered by our parents’ or the school’s insurance plans. Therefore, health care should be an issue that each and every student takes very seriously this election, so let’s take a look at what Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) have to offer.
The basis of McCain’s health care plan is to provide a $2,500 tax credit for individuals and a $5,000 tax credit for families to offset the cost of health care. Unfortunately, this is less than half the cost of insurance, still leaving millions uninsured. Additionally, McCain’s plan would repeal the current tax exemption for employer-based health care, meaning that some of these tax credits would be offset by increased taxes. BusinessWeek reported that 74 percent of corporate executives say this repeal would have a strong negative effect on employees’ benefits, and for this reason they favor Obama’s plan.
What McCain’s plan seriously fails to do is to ensure any sort of quality in health care, adjust for increasing health costs, simplify the insurance process or guarantee coverage. McCain’s tax credit plan aims to increase the competition in the market to lower prices. However, lower prices do not guarantee higher quality. With health care expenses expected to double within the next decade, the McCain plan does not ensure that his tax credits will rise accordingly, and even if they did, it would become very expensive very quickly. Next, the tax exemption repeal would result in less people buying from their employers, so that over time fewer employers will have an incentive to offer health care benefits, further complicating the insurance process. The simplicity of employer health care, which 87 percent of employees prefer, would be lost under McCain’s plan. Finally, while many Americans seek insurance, millions are turned down due to pre-existing conditions. Giving Americans a tax credit does not ensure that every American can even purchase an insurance plan.
On the other hand, Obama’s plan aims to reduce the costs of health insurance across the board so that the typical family will save up to $2,500 per year. He also has provisions to make health care accessible to every American by creating a new insurance plan for those who do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP; creating a National Health Insurance Exchange to facilitate the purchase of private insurance by both Americans and businesses; requiring employers to either provide coverage or contribute to the cost of public plan; mandating coverage for all children; expanding eligibility for Medicaid and SCHIP and using current state health reform plans.
Obama’s plan guarantees quality by providing a benefit package similar to the one offered to members of Congress as part of a national coverage plan. He also says no American will be turned away from the national or any other insurance plan under his reforms. Although there will be a national system, it will be voluntary and every American can keep their current insurance plan if they choose. His plan also reduces the complications of finding the right plan through the establishment of the National Health Insurance Exchange.
While McCain claims reducing earmarks will cover the costs for his plans, Obama has said his plan can be covered by increasing efficiency through an increase in health IT investment in order to reduce wasteful spending in the health care industry, as well as increased competition in the drug market by allowing generic drugs to enter the market. Further, by providing coverage to every American, the amount spent on the care of the uninsured will no longer be passed on to insured individuals.
However, no solution to the health care crisis will be cheap. According to the Washington Post, both plans will cost over $100 billion annually. However, Obama’s plan is expected to cover 34 million currently uninsured people, compared to McCain’s 5 million. Obama’s plan ensures quality of coverage-McCain’s plan has no such agenda. Obama has experience passing health care reform-McCain does not. Obama’s health care plan lays out a real solution to a major problem facing the nation, whereas McCain’s plan only offers a convenient sound bite to repeat at debates.
Jessica GephartMiami University College DemocratsStudents for Barack Obamagepharja@muohio.edu