NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 26, 2008

Republican presidential candidate John McCain says the United States is approaching a perfect storm of problems that will cause our health care system to implode if the next president doesn't act.  Democratic rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton would agree.  But that's about where agreement over health care ends, says USA Today.

While McCain sees soaring medical costs as the initial problem to address, Obama and Clinton have competing plans that focus first on expanding coverage.  They say too many Americans don't have adequate health insurance, and 47 million aren't covered at all.

Each is reacting to a host of problems that are driving up costs for businesses and consumers, says USA Today:

  • A 78 percent jump in insurance premiums since 2002, as tracked by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • A Medicare system heading for red ink as baby boomers age.
  • A shrinking percentage of employers offering coverage.

Health policy analysts say the battle lines already in place over the future of the health care system will offer Americans a stark choice in the November election.

Health care consultant Robert Laszewski and Drew Altman, president of the non-partisan Kaiser foundation, and others describe three major areas in which the candidates and their two parties split:

  • The Democratic candidates want to cover all or nearly all people, often by expanding government programs; McCain says worry about costs first and expand coverage later.
  • McCain and many congressional Republicans would not require anyone to buy insurance or make insurers sell to those with existing medical problems; Democrats would require most, if not all, people to have insurance and insist that insurers sell to everyone who applies.
  • Republicans would lean more on tax incentives to get people to buy their own insurance and less on coverage through their jobs; Democrats would bolster the current system of employer coverage.

Source: Julie Appleby, "Candidates diverge on health care plans," USA Today, March 25, 2008.

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