Saturday, October 04, 2008

'Consumer Reports' Compares Obama and McCain Health Care Plans

The November issue of Consumer Reports, the publication of the independent Consumers Union, contains their analysis of the health care proposals of John McCain and Barack Obama. As the magazine points out, "both plans lack key details." But, considering what the candidates have said and filling in the blanks with plausible speculation based on the state plans on which Obama and McCain have based their announced programs, the magazine looks at how people in three different situations might be affected by the two prospective presidencies.

The comparative survey uses the circumstances of five real-life people: a couple identified as "over 60 and struggling," a thirty-something couple whose child was born with a major medical condition referred to as "well-insured," and a single, self-employed woman who is called "young and uninsured."

A chart also makes a general comparison of the two candidates' plans in six areas of concern which, in March, 2008 CU survey, 80% of the American people identified as important elements in any plan for health care reform. The six elements:
  • Coverage of all uninsured children
  • Protection against financial ruin due to major illness or accident
  • Ability to get coverage regardless of a pre-existing condition
  • Coverage that continues even when people are laid off, change jobs, or start their own business
  • Premiums, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses that are affordable relative to family income
  • The ability of people to keep their current health insurance if they choose
Consumer Reports judged that the over-sixty couple would be better off under McCain's plan if the husband continues to work until age 69, but better under Obama's plan if the husband retires at 65. The thirty-something couple, assuming the wife doesn't change jobs, would do better under McCain's plan and experience no change under Obama's. For the young single, presently uninsured, would be more able to afford insurance under McCain's plan, but the magazine warns, "she should choose a plan with good coverage. Under the current system, the cheapest plans often have coverage gaps that could lead to high costs if she gets sick..."

Of course, health care reform proposed by either candidate should they become president would have to make it through Congress. A McCain plan would probably have to be passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress, meaning that in order to get anything done, he will have to compromise more than a President Obama would need to do with a Congress controlled by his own party.

In any case, given that ours is not a parliamentary system in the United States, neither candidate can really promise exactly what they'll get done on health care reform or on any other policy area requiring congressional approval. In 1992, Bill Clinton published what many have said were the most detailed policy position papers in presidential campaign history. While they gave some indication of what the candidate wanted to do, President Clinton had only modest success in getting his legislative initiatives through Congress during his eight years in office, giving up on some and, of course, watching his health care reform proposals come to grief.

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