NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 21, 2008

Campaigning for the Texas Democratic Primary is shaping up to be a health care Alamo, says Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York, and an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Both Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have called for less oratory and more specifics. With that in mind, there are some issues they should clear up, says McCaughey:

  • Sen. Clinton should be compelled to defend her one-price rule, or "shared responsibility," that forces young people to buy insurance; it seems like an unjust, hidden tax on the younger generation.
  • Sen. Obama has pledged to make health insurance "affordable" but has not said whether or not he would allow Texans (and all of us who live in states with similarly costly insurance requirements) to shop for cheaper insurance outside their own state.
  • Sen. Clinton promises that everyone who is already insured will be able to keep the coverage they have today, yet her proposal could force people to switch to more costly plans to meet the her plan's definition of insurance; a large contradiction.

In addition:

  • Sen. Obama has said he would require all parents to have health insurance for their children, but it's not clear how he would enforce this law; a particular problem in Texas given that 850,000 children are eligible but not enrolled.
  • Sen. Clinton should clarify whether her universal plan would cover recent and future newcomers to the United States, legal and illegal, a particular problem since the recent rise in the uninsured is due primarily to new arrivals and their U.S.-born children.

Finally, both call for limits on the profit margins of insurance companies, says McCaughey.  Attacking the most unpopular industry in America may sound politically attractive, but if profit margins are legally capped, investors will flee to other industries and private insurance could become a thing of the past.  Is that a risk they're willing to take?

Source: Betsey McCaughey, "Health Questions for the Candidates," Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2008.

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