Why does Latham support McCain's health care plan?

During Monday’s radio debate between Representative Tom Latham and Becky Greenwald (podcast available here), Latham did his best to run away from the Republican label and the failed policies of George Bush’s administration. In fact, he was eager to remind listeners of the only time in recent memory that he didn’t vote for something Bush wanted (the bailout).

Latham didn’t go out of his way to link himself with John McCain either, which makes sense, since McCain is going to lose Iowa. When one caller asked him about McCain’s health care plan, Latham hedged before acknowledging that he supports the concept of that plan.

Greenwald wants him to explain his position:

 October 8, 2008                                                                                          

Greenwald Calls on Latham Says to Explain His Support of John McCain’s Radical Healthcare Plan

Over 217,000 Iowans Would Lose Coverage Under McCain’s Radical Plan

Waukee, IA – This week, on the WHO 1040 AM radio debate, Tom Latham was asked if he would support John McCain’s radical health care plan. After skirting the question, Tom Latham said “…the general concept of it I would be supportive of.” In a conference call today, Becky Greenwald called on Latham to explain his support for a plan that would cost over 217,000 Iowans their healthcare.

“Tom, how can you support a radical healthcare proposal that would cost over 217,000 Iowans to lose their health insurance?” asked Becky Greenwald. “This is a classic Washington bait and switch. Tom Latham and John McCain would give you a tax credit with one hand, but raises your taxes with the other to pay for it. With Iowans being squeezed from all sides, we literally can’t afford two more years of Tom Latham.”

John McCain’s plan will tax health care benefits and lead 20 million workers, 217,346 in Iowa alone, to lose the coverage they get from their employers. He only offers a $5,000 tax credit to families to buy health insurance, but according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average family health insurance premium is over $12,000. McCain also said that he supports deregulating healthcare, just as he and Tom Latham did with the financial markets that have led to our economic crisis.

McCain’s Plan to Give American’s More Cost and Less Coverage

Over 215,000 Iowans Would Lose Their Coverage Under McCain’s Health Plan. In September 2008, the Economic Policy Institute, in their analysis of John McCain’s health care plan reported that up to 217,346 Iowans could lose their health coverage under McCain’s health care plan. [Economic Policy Institute: McCain Plan Accelerates Loss In Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance A State-By-State Analysis, 9/26/08]

McCain’s Health Plan Could Result In Tax Increase For Some Americans. McCain’s campaign “acknowledged. . .that the health plan he outlined. . .would have the effect of increasing tax payments for some workers, primarily those with high incomes and expensive health plans.” According to the New York Times, “the campaign cannot yet project how many taxpayers might see their taxes go up.” [New York Times, 5/1/2008]

McCain Wanted to Deregulate the Health Insurance Market.  In Contingencies, a publication by the American Academy of Actuaries, McCain said, “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.”  [Contigencies, Sept./Oct. issue via New York Times, 9/19/08]

The Cost For Employer Based Family Health Coverage Is $12,680. The Kaiser Family Foundation stated, “Premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose to $12,680 annually for family coverage this year.” [Kaiser Family Foundation release, 9/24/08]

McCain’s Plan May Increase Health Costs. “Critics of McCain’s plan say it would not make insurance cheaper or more available and might prevent people with pre-existing conditions from getting coverage.” Harvard Business School professor Regina Herzlinger “feels the plan does little to address the high cost of health care.” In addition, “McCain and his advisers say that giving health-care consumers more options will lead to substantial cost reductions, though they have yet to provide any figures.” [Reuters, 4/29/2008; Business Week, 4/29/2008; Bloomberg, 4/29/2008]

McCain Plan Would Cause 20 Million People to Lose Employer-Based Health Insurance.  Health Affairs reported in September 2008 that, “Eliminating the tax exclusion would greatly reduce the number of people who obtain health insurance through their employers.  This decline would be driven by three factors: the effective price of employer-sponsored coverage would increase, the nondiscrimination rules would no longer apply, and low-risk employees would have less incentive to remain in employer-sponsored groups…the elimination of the income tax preference for employer-sponsored insurance would cause twenty million Americans to lose such coverage. [Health Affairs, 9/16/08]

I challenge any family to shop for a private health insurance plan that costs $5,000 a year. That is a joke. Even young, healthy individuals often can’t get insurance for that price. I know this firsthand, because my family pays for our own health insurance.

The point about McCain wanting to tax health benefits is also important. I’m glad to hear Greenwald echoing the message that Barack Obama’s campaign is conveying through television ads, door-to-door contacts and direct-mail pieces.

If this issue comes up in Friday’s radio debate, I would encourage Greenwald to mention one more problem with McCain’s plan.

If you have a pre-existing condition, you may not be able to purchase health insurance for any price. Elizabeth Edwards pointed out six months ago that McCain’s plan does nothing to solve this problem.

Speaking of which, in a conference call last week, Elizabeth Edwards made the connection between our inadequate health care system and our economic problems:

she said that problems with payments of medical bills often lead to home foreclosures, a major factor in the current economic downturn. Elizabeth Edwards also said that residents without health insurance often are less productive because they miss work as a result of a lack of access to preventive care or early treatment for illnesses. She said, “Reform of our health care system is a very important part of the answers we’re going to need to solve our economic woes.”

Democratic candidates for office at all levels need to keep connecting those dots. Obama answered the health care question well in last night’s debate with McCain.

I will have more thoughts on the Latham/Greenwald debate once I’ve had a chance to listen to the 80-minute tape again.

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  • McCain's plan

    The point you make about the pre-existing conditions is the biggest reason not to support McCain’s plan. I do believe that we need to separate insurance from employers. Small businesses are handicapped because they can’t provide a big enough pool to take to the insurance company.