Here’s the latest sign of the Obama campaign’s strategic brilliance. They’ve waited until now, when voters are paying attention, to start attacking McCain’s healthcare plan.
Remember, healthcare was a big topic of discussion during the Democratic primaries. Since then, virtual silence. Bloggers have given two thumbs way down to McCain’s healthcare plan, but Obama has said nothing.
Until the Vice-Presidential debate, when 70 million Americans were watching. Suddenly, Joe Biden launched a devastating broadside at McCain’s healthcare proposal. And then Obama began releasing a series of ads attacking McCain on this point of vulnerability.
There are a number of problems with McCain’s healthcare policy. The above ad attacks one of them: McCain would allow insurers to provide policies across state lines. As a result, insurers could locate in states where regulations are lax. In other words, McCain’s policy would effectively deregulate the health insurance industry.
McCain’s policy would also effectively destroy employer-based healthcare. Twenty million Americans could lose their coverage — a point that Joe Biden made during the debate. Ezra Klein explains:
Raising taxes by $3.6 trillion on the employer-based health insurance market — which McCain does, and which his campaign has been extremely clear about doing — and then giving an equivalent amount of money in subsidies to the individual health insurance market is not a one-to-one trade. It is not like raising taxes on the rich and cutting them on the poor by equivalent amounts. It’s more like raising taxes on solar energy and then putting the subsidies into oil. He is taxing one thing so people use less of it, and subsidizing another so people use more. The issue at hand is not total revenues but the effect on the market. [emphasis in original] …
Currently, employer health benefits are tax deductible, as they have been since the Second World War. This amounts to a huge subsidy for employer-based health insurance and is the reason why the workplace is at the center of our health insurance system. Eliminating that subsidy will make employer-based health insurance $3.6 trillion more expensive. The effects of that on the health insurance market will be felt in full: Huge numbers of employers will stop offering such insurance. Many more will sharply raise the worker contribution, or drastically cut benefits.
In Health Affairs, Thomas Buchmueller, Sherry A. Glied, Anne Royalty, and Katherine Swartz estimate that a full 20 million Americans will lose their current coverage as a result of the tax hike. 20 million. And they say that’s a low estimate. …
That is the first piece of the McCain health plan: A massive increase on employer-based health insurance that is meant to drive people out of that market. It is not a bug. It is the central feature, the crucial mechanism, that powers the policy.
Obama hammered home the message on Saturday, in Virginia:
So here’s John McCain’s radical plan in a nutshell: he taxes health care benefits for the first time in history; millions lose the health care they have; millions pay more for the health care they get; drug and insurance companies continue to profit; and middle class families watch the system they rely on begin to unravel before their eyes.
Well, I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think we should settle for health care that works better for drug and insurance companies than it does for hard working Americans.
Let the voter beware.