07/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Whining Americans Choose Caviar Health Care

Al Hubbard, architect of the Bush-cum-McCain health plan, compares Americans' use of the health care system to shoppers who indiscriminately buy caviar while someone else foots the bill, just as Senator Phil Gramm exits as co-chair of John McCain's presidential campaign after calling America a "nation of whiners" in a "mental recession."

Hubbard, former assistant to the president for economic policy, spoke at a Thursday event at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. He blamed patients for driving up health care costs because insurance insulated them from the real costs of treatment.

He suggested that American consumers would run similarly amok in a world where employers provided "food insurance" instead of health insurance. "Pretty soon you would start buying caviar, the most expensive steak, and you would start buying more than you needed," he said.

Hubbard crafted the health care plan unsuccessfully promoted by President Bush and subsequently embraced by GOP presumptive nominee Senator John McCain. It would eliminate incentives for employers to offer insurance, shifting the burden of health care costs onto individuals, who would be granted a tax break to buy insurance. Critics say the tax credits would be at an amount far below what would be required to purchase health insurance.

About eighty percent of health care costs are incurred by the sickest twenty percent of Americans, those whose doctors order expensive treatments for difficult diseases such as cancer. Hubbard is suggesting that Americans going through serious health challenges should be shoppers first and patients second.

This remarks comes at a poor time for Senator McCain, who was forced to jettison co-chairman Phil Gramm because his remarks made the GOP presumptive nominee seem insensitive to the Americans' economic difficulties. Do Hubbard's comments mean McCain is hoping to lower health care costs by forcing Americans to treat health care as a luxury as precious as caviar?