McCain's Health Care Proposal
Setting a different course from both the Democrats and his fellow Republicans on health care, Arizona Senator John McCain will propose offering tax credits of up to $5,000 for all U.S. families that get health insurance in a speech in Des Moines tomorrow.
His proposal, while more comprehensive than what the other GOP candidates have offered, does not create universal health coverage or mandate that everyone buy insurance. Those are elements of plans that Sen. Hillary Clinton and former North Carolina senator John Edwards have introduced in this campaign and similar to a plan Mitt Romney adopted as governor of Massachusetts.
"In health care, we believe in enhancing the freedom of individuals to receive necessary and desired care," McCain will say, according to speech excepts provided by his staff. "We do not believe in coercion and the use of state power to mandate care, coverage or costs."
One of McCain's biggest focuses is on reducing costs. He distances himself from the Bush administration by calling for large-scale re-importation of prescription drugs from abroad, which the White House has long opposed on the grounds that the U.S. cannot guarantee the safety of such drugs. The tax credits from McCain also differ from the proposals offered by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who would allow people to exclude up to $15,000 of their income if it was spent on health care. In the Giuliani proposal, unlike McCain's, the size of the tax credit depends on income and would be smaller for people who pay little or no income taxes. McCain would offer a $2500 tax credit for individuals.
McCain aides did not provide estimates about how much this proposal would cost or how many of the 45 million Americans who currently do not have insurance would find it more affordable under this proposal. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care group, the average plan for a family of four costs more than $12,000, although McCain aides noted that much cheaper plans are available. They also noted that other changes they call for, such as reforms that reduce the number of medical lawsuits, would help bring down costs.
McCain would fund the proposal in by part by ending a provision in the tax code that allows employers to deduct the cost of health care from their taxable earnings, a practice many Democratic and Republican health care experts say unfairly rewards people who get health insurance from their workplace. Both Clinton and President Bush have proposed versions of this idea as well.
--Perry Bacon Jr.
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