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Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008

Think You Know John McCain?

His health care plan would take money from Medicare

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Republican presidential nominee John McCain is trying to argue that his plan to break up the current employer-based health care system will result in a tax credit for individuals and no financial harm to the government. The free market will sort it out, apparently, and his proposed $2,500 individual tax credit or $5,000 family tax credit will help consumers pay for their own insurance.

While those tax credits may seem generous, they likely won’t cover what consumers need. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, family health care plans cost about $12,000 and individual plans cost almost $5,000—more than McCain’s proposed tax credit. Not only that, but employees with coverage would be taxed on that benefit.

If that weren’t bad enough, behind the scenes McCain’s advisers are providing more details about how his plan would be funded. According to an eye-opening Oct. 6 article in The Wall Street Journal, “The campaign has always planned to fund the tax credits, in part, with savings from Medicare and Medicaid.”

By savings, read “cuts.” About $1.3 trillion over 10 years. McCain’s advisers argued that the “savings” would come from “eliminating Medicare fraud and by reforming policies to lower the overall cost of care.” But that isn’t the whole story about McCain’s plans for Medicare.

Back in April, McCain proposed making wealthier Medicare recipients pay more for their prescription drug benefits. They already pay more for doctor visits and outpatient services.

McCain has argued that the super-wealthy—such as Bill Gates or Warren Buffett—shouldn’t have to benefit from the government’s generosity. But those affected wouldn’t be just the super-wealthy: They would be individuals with incomes over $82,000 or couples with incomes over $164,000, according to the McCain proposal.

As the Columbia Journalism Review noted, earlier this year the Senate rejected a similar proposal by a vote of 56 to 42. Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton opposed the bill. McCain didn’t vote on it.

The article went on to report: “McCain adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin revealed the most when he said in the [Washington Post] story: ‘You could make this as aggressive as you want to get more savings.’ In other words, if the government saves $2 billion by making couples with incomes greater than $164,000 pay higher premiums, it could save $6 billion by moving down the income ladder to, say, $100,000 or even less.”

The changes would encourage wealthier Medicare recipients to take out private health insurance policies. Likewise, more individuals currently covered by their employers would seek out private insurance on the open market. But they would find fewer consumer protections and could even pay more out-of-pocket expenses for less-comprehensive coverage. Medicare could eventually become just a shell of itself and workers paying into the system now may not be guaranteed coverage when they get older.

“Over time, Medicare experts say, the amount of income that will trigger higher premiums will drop, as Holtz- Eakin hints, which will eventually turn it into a welfare program, a goal long-sought by conservatives,” the Columbia Journalism Review reported.

So even though McCain is portraying himself as a reformer and maverick, once again he’s siding with the cherished policies of conservative Republicans.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.

 

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