James Kvaal, a senior fellow at the Washington, DC-based Center for American Progress was in St. Paul, Minn., recently to issue a warning about Sen. John McCain's "radical" plan for health care. Kvall was one of five Center staff members who are fanned out across the nation to outline the plan which has received little national attention.
The cornerstone of the plan is the elimination of the tax exclusion for employers who provide health coverage as an employee benefit. If employers were to be taxed on health benefits, they'd be less likely to offer them, opponents reason. The exclusion would be replaced with a tax credit to individuals for purchasing largely unregulated non-group insurance.
According to the Center's report, about 20 million Americans would lose coverage under the McCain plan. In Minnesota, that translates to about 420,000 out of the 3.1 million people in the state who receive health coverage through work, said Kvall. An average family in Minnesota would be paying $1,500 more in taxes by 2013 if income and payroll taxes on health coverage were enacted under the McCain plan, said Kvaal.
As policy director of John Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign, Kvaal coordinated the development of Edwards' universal health care plan. Kvall gave his comments at a press briefing at the state capitol Oct. 2 and was joined by Julie Schnell, president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota (and 20 SEIU workers wearing "I'm a healthcare worker" t-shirts), and Dan McGrath, executive director of TakeAction Minnesota.
The Urban Institute/Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center (TPC) evaluated each candidate's plan and found that Sen. Barack Obama's would cover about 47 percent of the forecasted uninsured population over a 10-year period while the McCain plan would cover less than five percent.
The Obama plan costs about $1.6 trillion over a 10-year period, while the McCain plan costs $1.3 trillion. While the Obama plan would spend roughly 20 percent more than McCain's, it would cover more people and cost less per capita, according to the Urban Institute/Brookings report.
In light of the collapse of some of the country's largest financial institutions and the subsequent government bailout (or "rescue" for those who see the glass half full), whomever wins in November will have a lot less to work with.
* Cost And Coverage Implications Of The McCain Plan To Restructure Health Insurance (Health Affairs Journal, September 16, 2008)
* Obama health plan outperforms McCain plan in coverage and efficiency (Economic Policy Institute, May 23, 2008
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