04/09/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Elizabeth Edwards Returns McCain's Fire, Demands 'Straight Talk'

Days ago, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former nominee contender John Edwards, took aim at GOP nominee John McCain's health care plan, pointing out that, under the plan, insurance companies "wouldn't have to cover preexisting conditions like melanoma and breast cancer." That meant that she and McCain shared two common traits: both have been diagnosed with cancer, and "Neither one of us would be covered by his health policy."

Afterwards, McCain advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin characterized Edwards' remarks as "disappointing" and scolded her for not fully grasping the Senator's plan. Via ThinkProgress:

Holtz-Eakin said McCain's policy would harness "the power of competition to produce greater coverage for Americans." Because McCain's plan would lower the cost of healthcare through competition, Holtz-Eakin said, it would reduce costs for consumers with or without preexisting conditions.

Naturally, you'd think that those powerful markets would have nigh been harnessed, seeing as how cancer isn't exactly a new affliction. Well, Elizabeth Edwards wasn't having any of it, and hit back hard in a guest post at ThinkProgress' Wonk Room:

I freely admit that I am confused about the role of overnight funding in repurchase markets in the collapse of Bear Stearns. What I am not confused about is John McCain's health care proposal. Apparently Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior policy advisor to McCain, thinks I do "not understand the comprehensive nature of the senator's proposal." The problem, Douglas, is that, despite fuzzy language and feel-good lines in the Senator's proposal, I do understand exactly how devastating it will be to people who have the health conditions with which the Senator and I are confronted (melanoma for him, breast cancer for me) but do not have the financial resources we have. In very unconfusing language: they are left outside the clinic doors.

But Edwards didn't leave the matter settled with a clever riposte, either, posing four substantive questions that she didn't think McCain would have the capacity to answer. The fourth was a coup de grace:

Isn't the type of competition you are talking about really a rush to the bottom? As long as you allow insurers to underwrite and deny access, you encourage insurers to offer plans that may be cheap, but that get that way by avoiding people with cancer or other high-cost diseases or by limiting benefits and treatments, particularly if the treatment is expensive or might be needed for a long time. We all live in the real world; those of us lucky enough to have health insurance have seen how insurers cut coverage and up co-pays or deny particular treatments. The insurance company makes money when it doesn't have to pay for our health care. (I suspect that if they could, they would write obstetrical-only policies for nuns.) Doesn't your plan really encourage insurers plans to compete to avoid people with cancer or other high-cost diseases? Don't you think that the kind of competition that starts with a decent level of required coverage, that doesn't exclude the care we actually need, would be better?

In related news: Is it too late to draft Ms. Edwards to run for President?