Dean: John McCain's Health Care Plan the Wrong Choice for America's Future

WASHINGTON, April 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a new ad and a speech at the University of South Florida today, John McCain showed once again why his approach to health care is the wrong choice for America's future. McCain's speech was short on details, but where he did outline a plan for the future he primarily relied on recycled Bush proposals and flawed ideas that would do nothing to reduce the ranks of the uninsured or help America's working families find quality, affordable health care.

In fact, some of McCain's proposals would actually make it more difficult for families to get the care they need. For example, one family who attended yesterday's health care event in Miami discussed the challenges getting their health insurance company to pay for their son's treatment of a cleft lip and palate. As the Wall Street Journal reported, "McCain's health plan is designed to weaken state regulations like the one in Florida that, like 14 other states, mandates that insurance companies cover treatment for cleft palates. McCain says that mandates like this one drive up the cost of insurance, and he would allow people to buy coverage across state lines." [Wall Street Journal, Washington Wire blog, 4/28/08]

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean issued the following statement in response to McCain's speech:

"John McCain's health care proposals are a prescription for more of the same failed Bush policies, not the change America's working families are looking for. As usual, McCain was short on details, but where he did outline a plan for the future he relied on recycled Bush proposals and flawed ideas have done nothing to reduce the ranks of the uninsured or help America's working families find quality, affordable health care. After eight years of Republicans like John McCain sitting on their hands while the number of Americans without health insurance has climbed to 47 million, health care costs have soared, wages fallen, and good jobs have been harder to find, America's working families need a president who understands the challenges they face. John McCain is the wrong choice for America's future."



McCain Claims His Healthcare Plan Would Not "Leave Anybody Behind." In an April 2008 appearance on ABC's "This Week," McCain said of his healthcare plan, "we're not leaving anybody behind." [ABC News, "This Week," 4/20/2008]

But McCain's Health Care Plan Does Little to Help America's Uninsured. McCain's plan does not focus on "reducing the ranks of the uninsured," of which there are about 47 million, or one in seven Americans. According to the New York Times, "The McCain campaign has no estimate of how many of America's 47 million uninsured would likely gain coverage under its plan." [Wall Street Journal, 10/11/2007; New York Times, 3/2/2008]

March 2008: Latest Data Indicates 47 Million American Are Without Health Insurance. According to State Health Facts and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 46,994,627 million Americans were living without health insurance during 2006. One in five adults and over 12 percent of all children lacked health insurance. [Kaiser Family Foundation,, accessed on 4/17/08]

Nearly 90 Million Were Uninsured At Some Point During 2006-2007. A study released by Families USA in September 2007 found that "89.6 million people under the age of 65 were uninsured for some or all of" the two year period between 2006 and 2007. "This constitutes more than one out of every three non-elderly Americans. That also represents an increase of 17 million uninsured Americans from 1999-2000 to 2006-2007." [Families USA, "Wrong Direction: One Out of Every Three Americans Are Uninsured," September 2007,]

McCain Admits He Won't Address Problem of Uninsured Americans. McCain said, "I will leave it to my opponent to propose returning to the failed, big government mandates of the sixties and the seventies to address problems such as the lack of health care insurance for some Americans. I will campaign to make health care more accessible to more Americans with reforms that will bring down costs in the health care industry down without ruining the quality of the world's best medical care." [CNN, "American Morning," 3/5/2008]

McCain Said That Universal Healthcare Not His Personal Government Philosophy. "If you think that the government should mandate anything to the American people, then -- besides a safety net and I don't view it as a safety net, I view Medicare and Medicaid as a safety net, but to mandate that all Americans are required to do something, then that's just not within the fundamental philosophy that I have about the role of government in America." [CBS News, 3/9/08]


McCain Plan Would Dislodge State Regulations. McCain's plan would allow companies to offer national plans based in states that don't have requirements passed by the vast majority of other states, including emergency care, required by 44 states. "To promote competition, Mr. McCain would allow policies to be sold across state lines and by organizations like churches and trade groups." [Wall Street Journal, 10/11/2007; New York Times, 3/2/2008]

State Mandates That Would Be Overridden Include:

Clinical Trials (20 States)

SOURCE: National Conference of State Legislatures (, accessed 7/30/2007; Council for Affordable Health Insurance, accessed 7/30/2007 (

McCain Would Allow People to Buy Insurance Across State Lines, Would Lead to Race-to-the-Bottom. McCain's proposal to permit people to buy their health insurance across state lines "would allow health-insurance companies to escape state regulations they don't like, such as rules allowing for appeals when companies deny coverage and rules requiring insurers to cover people with various conditions or to cover particular types of treatments. The companies would likely gravitate to the states with the regulations they most favored." [Wall Street Journal, 4/19/2008]


McCain's Healthcare Plan Includes Proposal For "Medicaid Trust Fund" For Americans With Pre-Existing Conditions. McCain told George Stephanopolous on an April 2008 ABC This Week appearance that his plan would include "a special Medicaid trust fund set up to help care for those people who have pre-existing conditions." The proposal, however, does not mean enrolling "people with pre-existing conditions in the federal-state program for the poor." [ABC News, "This Week," 4/20/2008;, "The Note," 4/28/2008]

McCain Has Not Made Clear Who Would Qualify For This Help. According To ABC News, "while McCain has begun to outline his plan for Americans with pre-existing conditions, he has not made a final decision as to who would qualify for help." Said economic advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin, "The senator is still working through the details of the exact cut-offs and eligibility requirements." [, "The Note," 4/28/2008]

McCain would Cut Current Medicaid Program To Make Way For His "Trust Fund." According to ABC News, "funding for McCain's trust fund depends on savings being produced under Medicaid." Said Holtz-Eakin, "McCain's proposal will be to use some of the savings that would come out of the Medicaid program, because people are now in private insurance, and to develop a federal backstop -- a program that would give high cost individuals an insurance policy." [, "The Note," 4/28/2008]

"Unclear" If Plan Would Actually Cover Those With Pre-existing Conditions. "It is unclear" whether the Medicaid savings would provide enough money "to persuade insurers to accept those with pre-existing conditions at an affordable price." [, "The Note," 4/28/2008]

How McCain Would Achieve His Trust Fund "Is Unclear." According to the Wall Street Journal, McCain "said last fall that he would help people with particularly expensive health-care needs by offering special subsidies administered through Medicaid, the state-run health program for the poor. But how that would work or who would qualify is unclear." [Wall Street Journal, 4/19/2008]

McCain's Aides Struggled To Craft His Proposal. McCain's Medicaid trust fund proposal "left even some of his aides unsure of his meaning. Medicaid funds are generally used to help lower-income Americans." Now, some aides "have said he might try to divert some Medicaid funds into a program that would help people with preexisting conditions, but his advisers can't yet say how such a program would work or how many people would be covered." Said Thomas P. Miller, resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute, "These are real questions, and I think there will be answers, and there better be, but they are not there yet... a lot more remains to be hammered out.'" [Boston Globe, 4/3/2008]


Like Bush, McCain Wants To Move Away From Employer-Based System. "The existing tax break for employer-sponsored insurance would be eliminated, taking a step away from the work-based model in place for the last half century and toward an individual market." McCain's plan instead stipulates that "anyone who buys health insurance would receive refundable tax credits of $2,500 per individual and $5,000 per family." McCain said his goal is to "bring down health care costs" and to "help individuals and families buy their health insurance with generous tax credits." [Wall Street Journal, 10/11/2007; New York Times, 3/2/2008; Speech,, 4/15/2008]

Washington Post: McCain Plan Does Nothing To Address Problems In Health Insurance Industry. Washington Post editorial, McCain's health care plan "is weakest on the underlying problem with the health-insurance market, in which insurers have every incentive to cherry-pick the healthiest purchasers." McCain claims, "we should give additional help to those who face particularly expensive care. If it is done right and the additional money is there, insurance companies will compete for these patients -- not turn them away," yet his plan does very little to address this problem. [Washington Post Editorial, 12/26/2007]

McCain's Plan Would Eliminate Employer Benefit and Force Workers To Pay. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, McCain's plan "would end the longtime practice of allowing employers to offer health insurance to workers as an untaxable fringe benefit. Instead, workers would have to count the value of employer-paid health premiums as income on their tax returns. To help offset the additional taxes workers would have to pay, McCain would give tax credits ($2,500 per person, $5,000 per family) to all Americans with private coverage, including people who buy it on their own, who currently get no tax break." [Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/1/2008]

Bush's Plan Panned For Eroding Employer-Sponsored Health Care. Experts criticized Bush's health care plan proposed early in 2007 because it would "erode the employer-sponsored system that still provides coverage to more than half of all Americans." It prompted fear among many that the plan "would prompt more employers to drop health coverage and offer employees an immediate increase in wages to buy coverage on the individual market. But those plans tend to be more expensive, less comprehensive and harder to get for consumers who are already sick." [Washington Post, 1/25/2007]

Bush Proposed Moving Away From Employer-Based Health Care System. "First, I propose a standard tax deduction for health insurance that will be like the standard tax deduction for dependents," Bush declared in his 2007 State of the Union address. "This reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job," Bush continued, arguing that "for Americans who now purchase health insurance on their own, this proposal would mean a substantial tax savings." [2007 State of the Union Address, 1/23/2007]

McCain's Health Plan Just Like Bush Plan. "President Bush proposed a similar idea" to the tax credits in McCain's plan, which was dead-on-arrival in Congress in early 2007, because the plan only awarded those who purchased insurance in the private market. [Wall Street Journal, 10/11/2007; Washington Post, 1/25/2007]

McCain: I Believe We Should Grant Tax Credits to Individuals and Families for Health Insurance. McCain said: "I believe that everyone should get a tax credit of $2500, $5000 for families, if they have health insurance. It is good tax policy to take away the bias toward giving workers benefits instead of wages. It is good health policy to reward having insurance no matter where your policy comes from." ["John McCain on Health Care," Des Moines Rotary Lunch, 10/11/2007]

Bush: We Should Give Tax Credits to Individuals and Families Buying Health Care. During a speech in Madison Wisconsin, Bush outlined his proposal of the tax credits for the uninsured. "For those with limited means, my budget will provide new credits to afford health coverage -- up to a thousand dollars for an individual, or $3,000 for a family," Bush said. [Bush Remarks on Health Care Reform, 2/11/2002; White House Fact Sheet, 2/11/2002]

Analysis Shows Tax Credit Plans Do Little To Help Uninsured. According to an analysis of Bush's tax incentive plan, conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "as many as 55 percent of the uninsured would not benefit from the standard deduction because they do not earn enough to owe federal income tax." Another study done by the Commonwealth Fund came to a similar conclusion; "The uninsured simply don't have the discretionary income required to pick up the difference between the value of the tax incentive and the high premiums they face in the individual insurance market...In other words, this group of Americans cannot afford insurance premiums -- whether or not they receive a tax refund the following year." [Edwin Park, "Administration's Proposed Tax Deduction For Health Insurance Seriously Flawed," Center On Budget And Policy Priorities, July 31, 2007, ; Karen Davis, "The 2007 State of the Union Address: The President's Health Insurance Proposal Is Not a Solution," The Commonwealth Fund, January 2007, ]

McCain: Health Savings Accounts Give Families Choice, Keep Costs Down. In Des Moines, McCain argued that less regulation and more options in health care choices will empower families while keeping health care costs at bay. "American families know quality when they see it, so their dollars should be in their hands. When families are informed about medical choices, they are more capable of making their own decisions, less likely to choose the most expensive and often unnecessary options, and are more satisfied with their choices. Health Savings Accounts are tax-preferred accounts used to pay insurance premiums and other health costs. They put the family in charge of what they pay for, and should be expanded and encouraged." ["John McCain on Health Care," Des Moines Rotary Lunch, 10/11/2007]

Bush: Health Savings Accounts Will Empower Consumers, Keep Health Care Costs Down. Bush voiced strong support for private health savings accounts, arguing they will both empower consumers and bring down health care costs. "Health savings accounts all aim at empowering people to make decisions for themselves, owning their own health care plan, and at the same time bringing some demand control into the cost of heath care...Our view is that if you're a consumer of health care and you're in the marketplace making health care decisions, it is more likely that there [would] be more cost control in health care than a system in which the consumer of health care has his or her health care bills paid by a third-party provider." [Washington Post, 1/27/2005]

Reality: HSAs Unlikely To Reduce Costs For Most Americans. According to a report conducted by the Congressional Research Service on the effectiveness of health savings accounts, "it would be unreasonable to expect them [HSAs] to produce a significant reduction in the nation's health care costs...HSA plans with their relatively low out-of-pocket maximums will have little impact in reducing the health care spending." [Congressional Research Service, "Health Savings Accounts," 3/23/2005]

McCain: High-Quality Affordable Health Care Being Derailed by Frivolous Lawsuits; Must Pass Liability Reform. McCain said: "We cannot let the search for high-quality care be derailed by frivolous lawsuits and excessive damage awards. We must pass medical liability reform, and those reforms should eliminate lawsuits for doctors that follow clinical guidelines and adhere to patient safety protocols." ["John McCain on Health Care," Des Moines Rotary Lunch, 10/11/2007]

Bush: Frivolous Lawsuits Driving Health Care Costs Up; Must Have Medical Liability Reform. Bush championed "medical liability reforms to limit costly and frivolous lawsuits" and keep the cost of health care down. Bush said: "These lawsuits are driving many health care providers out of communities and forcing doctors to practice overly defensive medicine. This reduces access to medically necessary services and raises the costs of health care for all Americans." ["Strengthening Health Care," The White House, accessed 2/20/2008,]


McCain Offers Little On Specifics On Affordable Health Care For Small Businesses. When asked about a "support system for small business" to keep workers comp down, and a more affordable healthcare program for small business and their employees, McCain discussed how expensive "free" healthcare from the federal government will be, his "$5,000 refundable tax credit," and his "outcome-based treatment" plan. [CNN Live Feed (Santa Ana, CA), 3/25/2008]

McCain's Plan Falls Far Short On Details. According to the New York Times, "McCain has not specified the amounts" of the tax credits that would be given to the elderly and people with health problems. [New York Times, 3/2/2008]


McCain's Plan Could Cost Thousands to Lose Medicare Coverage. McCain's proposed health care reforms "could lead to hundreds of thousands of Florida seniors losing the current prescription drug coverage...McCain believes the drug benefit should only be available to low-income beneficiaries." [The Hill, 1/26/2008]

McCain Proposed Asking Wealthy Seniors To Pay More For Medicare, Could Be "Politically Risky." As part of his health care plan, McCain proposed "an increase in the premiums that high-income elderly people would pay for prescription drugs under Medicare.... Individuals who earn more than about $80,000 a year -- or couples earning about $160,000 -- would see their $35 monthly premiums for medicine coverage rise. The schedule of how the increases would be phased in has not been set." [Los Angeles Times, 4/16/2008]

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SOURCE Democratic National Committee