I'm not sure what debate the editors of The Wall Street Journal were watching last night, but it sure wasn't the one I viewed. There is something out of whack when they write this morning that "Barack Obama showed again in last night's debate that he sure is comfortable with the status quo on health care."
That's absurd, as any fair-minded viewer would attest. Senator Obama spoke passionately about the need to change our health care system. He clearly summarized the plans he has set out to provide access to health care for all Americans. He effortlessly explained the choices he would give to the American people. He made a strong case that we need affordable, quality health care for all. At the same time, he rightly pointed out the flaws in John McCain"s misguided health care proposal, citing McCain's plan to tax employer-sponsored health care benefits and leave individuals to the tender mercies of the insurance industry.
How could anyone suggest that Senator Obama was supporting the status quo? Perhaps the writer of today's editorial was away from the television when Senator Obama said health care "should be a right for every American." That's not the status quo. Perhaps they missed him commenting: "In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can't pay their medical bills -- for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they're saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don't have to pay for her treatment, there's something fundamentally wrong about that."
That's not the only thing The Journal gets wrong. They label as "a wild distortion" the assertion that John McCain would tax employer-sponsored health benefits. Nonsense. A tax on benefits is in his plan, and he said so last night. Back in the spring when he first introduced his plan, even McCain's staff admitted that the proposal was "radical." Perhaps that's why relatively conservative organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Federation of Independent Business are raising alarm bells about the McCain plan. Just yesterday, The New York Times reported that officials of those business groups predicted that the McCain plan "would accelerate the erosion of employer-sponsored health insurance and do little to reduce the number of uninsured from 45 million."
At a time when Americans are worried about their jobs, mortgages, energy costs and retirement security, the last thing they need to be doing is fending for themselves in an unregulated health care marketplace. Yet, that is what the McCain health care plan would force Americans to do. In the current issue of a magazine published by the American Academy of Actuaries, McCain explains that we need to remove restrictions and regulations in the health insurance industry. He believes in the magic of the marketplace. He writes: "Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation."
That's not the kind of change Americans need in health care. We don't need to tax employees for their employer-sponsored insurance. We don't need to force individuals to go out and bargain individually with the insurance companies. We don't need a health care plan that could eliminate current coverage for employees and make things even worse.
The Wall Street Journal's editors have their ideological blinders on. They believe in the unfettered free market and in the elimination of regulations on the insurance industry. John McCain agrees with them. That kind of ideological purity, the kind that doesn't bother with the facts, is exactly what led to the collapse of the economy that we're currently struggling to fix. It's also led to a health care system that is fundamentally broken. Unfortunately, The Journal and John McCain want the same kind of unregulated, free-market solution for health care that they promoted for banking. Their programs would be a disaster for working families and only make our health care crisis even worse.