Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Elizabeth Edwards highlights (one of) the flaws in McCain’s healthcare plan

Posted March 31st, 2008 at 2:25 pm
Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to think this observation might resonate with voters: John McCain could be denied coverage under John McCain’s healthcare plan. It’s a point Elizabeth Edwards drove home very well over the weekend.

Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Democratic presidential contender John Edwards, said she and John McCain have one thing in common: “Neither one of us would be covered by his health policy.”

Edwards lodged her criticism of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s proposal Saturday at the annual meeting of the Assn. of Health Care Journalists.

Under McCain’s plan, insurance companies “wouldn’t have to cover preexisting conditions like melanoma and breast cancer,” she said.

McCain has been treated for melanoma, the most serious type of skin malignancy. Edwards in 2004 was diagnosed with breast cancer, and announced a year ago that it had returned and spread into her bones, meaning it no longer could be cured.

McCain’s plan focuses on offering new tax breaks for individuals who buy their own health insurance. But critics say the Arizona senator’s proposal avoids giving insurers requirements on whom they must cover and how much they may charge.

At the risk of sounding picky, “critics say” McCain’s plan avoids requirements for insurance companies because McCain’s plan avoids requirements for insurance companies. It’s an objective fact, not a point of contention.

Indeed, it points to an ideological problem underpinning the debate.

McCain seems to realize that his plan leaves millions of vulnerable Americans behind, but he also realize that the alternative is government regulation — specifically, telling insurers that they can’t exclude people with pre-existing conditions, and can’t price these people out of coverage. Given a choice between a large gap of uninsured and government-imposed safeguards for Americans, McCain prefers the prior.

That means the self-employed and others seeking individual coverage would be subject to a marketplace in which insurers generally pick the healthiest applicants and turn the rest away. Cancer survivors — even if they have been free of disease for several years — are routinely denied health insurance when they try to purchase it as individuals.

Even if coverage is offered, it often comes with restrictions or high premiums that many find unaffordable.

The problem with Democratic plans is that, up front, they’re expensive. The problem with the Republicans’ policies is that sick people of modest means can’t get health insurance. If that means someone with John McCain’s identical medical history would get denied coverage, so be it.

Expect to hear quite a bit more about this as the campaign moves on.



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