Good for What Ails America?

Good for What Ails America?

In two new reports, the journal Health Affairs took a critical eye to Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain‘s sweeping healthcare plans.  Their assessment: neither plan is a panacea for what ails the American healthcare system.  McCain’s plan would leave too many people uninsured and Obama’s plan would be too expensive to afford.

Though the Health Affairs critique doesn’t mention cost, a separate report by the Tax Policy Center said Obama’s plan would cost $1.6 trillion over 10 years and reduce the number of uninsured by 18 million in 2009 year and by 34 million in 2018. McCain’s plan would reduce the number of the uninsured by one million in 2009, rising to a maximum of almost five million in 2013, and cost $1.3 trillion over 10 years. Though it could reduce the number of uninsured by up to five million, the effect on coverage would likely diminish over time.

McCain’s plan:

“We estimate that twenty million Americans would lose their current coverage as a result of the change in the tax treatment of coverage. Initially, this loss of job-based coverage would be offset by an increase in coverage in the nongroup market (although not necessarily for the same individuals). Within five years, however, the net effect of the plan is expected to be a  net reduction in coverage relative to what would have been observed if the tax treatment of  employer-sponsored coverage remains as it is now. The decline of job-based coverage would force millions of Americans into the weakest segment of the private insurance system – the nongroup market–where cost sharing is high and covered services are limited. Senator McCain’s proposal to deregulate this market would mean that people in it would lose protections they now have. These changes would diminish the security of coverage for most Americans, especially those who are not–or someday will not be–in perfect health.”

Obama’s plan:

“Health care costs are expected to continue their upward spiral, placing a growing burden on
American families. Neither candidate has all the answers to these problems. The critical issue for us is whether they propose to change the underlying dynamics that drive health care costs to continue increasing much faster than the economy, putting the cost of insurance outside the reach of too many American families. We believe that Barack Obama’s plan does not. Unless the factors underlying cost growth are addressed, the country will be left with more unsustainable spending, which will ultimately unravel the coverage expansions.”

Also, the Kaiser Foundation did a side-by-side comparison of the two plans.

Readers: What do you think of the candidates healthcare plans?

Deborah Creighton Skinner is the editorial director of