NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 11, 2008

How do Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) differ on health care?  The National Journal compared and contrasted the two presidential candidates.  Below is a summary of Obama's positions on health care.

The uninsured:

  • Obama would require parents to insure their children and would allow children up to age 25 to stay on their parents' plans.
  • He is considering mandating that all the uninsured buy coverage and expanding eligibility for Medicaid and SCHIP; the goal is to reach universal coverage by 2012.

Consumer impact:

  • Individuals and businesses could purchase public or private health coverage through a national health insurance exchange, and insurers could not reject applicants because of illness or pre-existing conditions.
  • Benefits would be similar to those for federal employees.
  • Obama would allow some drug imports; he estimates that the plan would lower premiums an average of $2,500 per family.

Economic impact:

  • He would pay for his plan (estimated at $50 billion to $60 billion a year) by allowing Bush's tax breaks to expire for people with annual incomes about $250,000.
  • Obama would toughen antitrust laws to keep insurers from "overcharging" for malpractice insurance.
  • He would promote the use of generic drugs, create an approval pathway for generic biologic drugs and allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug companies.

Employer-provided health insurance:

  • Most employers would have to cover workers, make a "meaningful" contribution to coverage or contribute to a public health plan.
  • Obama would exempt small businesses and give them a tax credit to help reduce their health care costs.
  • He would reimburse employers for some catastrophic costs, but employers would have to use the money to reduce workers' premiums.

Source: "Obama on Health Care," in "Where They Stand," National Journal, August 30, 2008.


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