News & Politics

Hard Questions Needed on McCain's Health Plan

McCain wants to put even more health care costs on the shoulders of working families. The question is how.

After Time Magazine's Swampland blog slapped fellow journalists on the wrist for understating the "radical" nature of Sen. John McCain's health care plan, Trudy Lieberman at the Columbia Journalism Review is also struck at McCain's "radical" plan. Furthermore, she delves deeper into the media's failure to ask questions, and the McCain campaign failure to answer them.

John McCain finally came forth this week with what his campaign dubbed a major policy speech, laying out his To Do list for health care reform ... up to this point [McCain's plans] had raised more questions than answers. Tuesday's address wasn't much more illuminating. In fact, in some respects, it was utterly confusing. The Straight Talk Express took a circuitous route, and the press did not clear things up.

Basically, in McCain's drive to put even more health care costs on the shoulders of working families, he's not being clear if he plans to do that "by making employees pay taxes on employer-provided coverage or by no longer allowing employers to deduct health insurance as a business expense, or by doing both," and the media isn't pressing him to clarify.

But either way, CJR reports, the McCain plan is a "radical" one.

The important thing to know about McCain's plan at the moment is that either way ... it's the proverbial nose under the camel's tent. It's the beginning of the end of health insurance as we know it, so what he proposes as a replacement should be very carefully reported and considered. In McCain's plan, under the banner of consumer choice, everyone will eventually need to find insurance on their own in the private market. In his speech, McCain himself said: "Millions of Americans would be making their own health-care choices again."

This reminds me a lot of what's happening to Medicare. The push to entice beneficiaries to buy certain kinds of private-market policies and opt out of traditional Medicare is a wedge that begins to privatize the program. Encouraging people to opt out of their employer health coverage does the same thing--it makes people fly solo when it comes to their health insurance. Is that what American workers want?

The tax part of McCain's health proposal is radical, far more radical than his rivals' plans ... The media need to begin asking the hard questions, and soon.

As we well know, making people "fly solo" with their retirement security was widely rejected by the public when conservatives tried to privatize Social Security. So the McCain and his aides may believe it's not in their interest to make all the aspects of their health care plan crystal clear to voters.

All the more reason why reporters should ask the hard questions, and properly characterize the radical nature of what McCain proposes.
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