09/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Hillary Takes It to McCain on Health Care Today

Hillary Clinton follows her pro-Obama speech by focusing on the signature issue of Democratic domestic politics: affordable health care. Starting at 11:30 a.m. EDT today, you can see her live on streaming video join with activists and leading Democrats at a forum on winning health-care reform in 2009, co-sponsored by Families USA and SEIU.

The need for reform couldn't be any clearer. And the differences between McCain and Obama on health-care couldn't be any starker, as a study by Families USA points out. The non-partisan group highlights some troubling aspects of McCain's plan:

Senator McCain offers a radical restructuring of America's health care system. His health care proposal is built around these key elements:

His proposal seeks to move Americans from group coverage--especially the employer-based coverage they have today--to individual coverage, so that each individual has to negotiate directly with insurance companies over premium prices and benefits. Senator McCain's proposal also includes tax code changes that will weaken existing employer-based coverage.

His proposal does not support regulations--even those in existence today--that protect consumers from insurance company abuses, such as cherry-picking and charging unaffordably high premiums to people with pre-existing conditions or family histories of health problems.

His proposal encourages the sale of high-deductible insurance policies that attempt to deal with health care costs by requiring individuals to pay more out of their own pockets for health care.

As a result, liberal Democrats believe, McCain's policy on health care could be summarized in a variation of a classic New York Daily News headline:

McCain To Americans: Drop Dead, You're On Your Own.

In contrast, Families USA reports, "Senator Obama's proposal builds on our current system of health coverage, preserving what works and strengthening aspects of the system that need improvement." Among the highlights:

His proposal establishes a National Health Insurance Exchange that will enable people and businesses to purchase health coverage like members of Congress and federal employees have today. This Exchange gives people new choices of plans that cover the services that they need, and it promotes portability when people move from one job to another or are laid off.

His proposal regulates insurance companies so that they can no longer cherry-pick only the young and healthy and deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. In addition, Senator Obama's proposal establishes reasonable limits on what families have to pay out of their own pockets for health care.

Even though it favors some of the goals of Obama's position, Families USA is seeking to work across party and ideological lines to promote health care reform, even working with the National Federation of Independent Businesses to put health care at the top of the nation's agenda. At the same time, Families USA disagrees with some of the key free-market principles of NFIB, but understands the importance of getting such groups -- which strongly opposed any health care reform in the 90s -- to the table in the drive for reform.

To that end, Families USA joined with NFIB and other groups to bring back the actors who played Harry and Louise, the fictional characters who opposed the Clinton administration's health-care plan, to help put health care at the top of the next president's agenda. It's also launched a new, useful website for activists:

But these goals won't be able to be achieved unless there's widespread grass-roots organizing led by groups such as Health Care for America Now and Families USA to support such reform. The challenges facing activists at the state level and in Congress were addressed in a fascinating discussion by journalist Ezra Klein and a leader of the state-based Archimedes Movement on the radio show I co-host with Tom D'Antoni.

And if McCain beats Obama, we'll be stuck with a system that's even worse than the one we already have -- with even less protection against health-care industry abuses.

Maybe the Democrats, including Hillary's own most ardent supporters, will find winning health care reform a good enough reason to unite behind Obama.


This Thursday at 5:30 p.m., EDT, you can hear about Obama's national security policy from a top military advisor, Gen. Tony McPeak, and a live report from the Denver convention, all at the D'Antoni and Levine Show on BlogTalk Radio.

For more Huffington Post coverage of the Democratic National Convention, visit our Politics @ the DNC page, our Democratic Convention Big News Page, and our HuffPost bloggers' Twitter feed, live from Denver.

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