McCain and Healthcare
Healthcare is one the major issues of this presidential campaign. Most people believe that health insurance is a problem—and they are right. According to Consumer Affairs magazine, America has the most expensive health care in the world. Some people (mostly conservatives) claim that America has the best healthcare in the world. Sadly, they are deluding themselves. The United States spends $5,300 per person on health care. In contrast, Canada spends around $2000 per person, Switzerland $3500 person, and Japan around $2000 per person. Even if we assume that America’s healthcare service is better than that of other countries, the amount of money spent is ridiculous.
Granted, conservatives aren’t the only ones deluding themselves about health care. Liberals do as well. They relentlessly repeat the statistic that “47 million Americans are without health insurance”. They don’t mention that many of those Americans can afford health insurance, but they simply don’t buy it because they do not believe that costs equal the benefits.
Another myth perpetuated by liberals is the idea that a lack of health insurance equals a lack of health care. Certainly, there are cases where Americans die due to a lack of health care. Just not very many. The cases Democrats use as examples of our desperate need for universal health insurance aren’t exactly cases of desperate need. Take, for example, John Edwards’ oft-repeated tale of a man with a cleft palate who couldn’t talk until he got an operation at age fifty. A sad story, certainly, and I do feel sorry for that individual. But it is not a life threatening illness. We are not turning dreadfully ill people away from hospitals en masse. Health insurance is a financial crisis for many. Health care is not. Most people, regardless of their financial position, receive some measure of health care when ill.
So both liberals and conservatives have erroneous views of our healthcare system. Which presidential candidate has the best grasp of health care?
Barack Obama supports the standard liberal solution of government provided universal healthcare. He will implement a national health plan that features guaranteed eligibility, affordable premiums, co-pays and deductibles, and quality and efficiency.
He does not say how he will pay for all of this, but it is obvious that he will do say through tax hikes on the rich and on the middle class. His plan will also give the government massive control of our health care system. It will require employers who do not contribute to the healthcare of their workers to contribute a percentage of their payroll towards the national plan, would require that children have insurance coverage, and would control insurance price increases. Obama’s healthcare plan is European-style socialized medicine.
(On a slightly unrelated note, some of the claims made on Obama’s website seem a little suspect. Do 133 million Americans really suffer from a chronic disease? And does mental illness affect one in five American families? Those claims, in particular, sound unrealistic.)
On the Republican side, the “conservative” candidate, Mitt Romney, proposed a health care plan similar to the one he implemented in Massachutsets. He pushed employers to provide healthcare, expanded the ranks of Medicaid, and some subsities. (He figured out the need for subsities through an “econometric model” of the population, which sounds very much like a phrase Romney would use). Perhaps these innovations were not particularly conservative, but they were not completely intolerable either.
However, health insurance mandates, which Romney also proposed, are completely intolerable. The state should not have the right to force people to buy health insurance. One’s health should be a private matter, and one that the state should not micromanage. This idea is totally contrary to conservative principles.
John McCain’s healthcare plan is fairly good, which is surprising, given his rather liberal record. He focuses on promoting competition in the healthcare system by permitting providers to practice nationwide across state lines, and by letting people purchase health insurance through any organization they choose, whether it be through employers, individual purchases, churches, or any other organization. He would provide everyone with a $2,500 tax credit for insurance coverage to eliminate the bias towards employer coverage. He would also attempt to limit frivolous lawsuits and outrageous jury awards. There are, thankfully, no individual mandates in McCain’s plan.
McCain’s plan is far from perfect—it does expand the role of the federal government beyond what most libertarians consider proper. However, it is incalculably better than Barack Obama’s plan. It is also sounder than Mitt Romney’s (considered by Ann Coulter, among others, to be “manifestly the best candidate”) proposal. John McCain is weak on many issues—but healthcare is not one of them.