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McCain, Obama health plans critiqued

September 17, 2008 |  3:04 pm

Don't say you didn't know, or can't understand, the presidential candidates' plans for dealing with America's healthcare crisis. Don't say you don't get how they might affect you. It's all out there, analyses from independent, nonpartisan groups as well as from very partisan groups. You can have a quick, Learn about John McCain's health care solutions thumbnail, side-by-side peek at how each candidate sees the future of healthcare. Or you can dig into papers examining the economic and societal impacts of each plan.

A starting point might be where each candidate stands, from his  ownLearn about Barack Obama's plan for healthcare reform  point of view. Sen. John McCain's  site talks about "Straight Talk on Health System Reform." And Sen. Barack Obama's site proposes a "Plan for a Healthy America."

But you might want to see the two plans side by side, comparing and contrasting such things as the candidates' stated goals, overall approach to expanding access to healthcare, changes to private insurance, cost containment, what it'll cost and who will pay. The Kaiser Family Foundation, a private, nonprofit health policy and communications organization, has just what you need.

On Sept. 16, the journal Health Affairs offered a web exclusive with a critique of the Obama healthcare plan, saying its costs are unsustainable, and one of the McCain plan, saying the number of uninsured could grow from 45 million to 60 million in the next five years. Another article in the journal suggests that America's healthcare system could benefit from a mixing and matching from each of the plans.

The bottom line from the healthcare economists who examined each candidates' proposal is that the Obama plan won't curb the escalating costs of healthcare in the U.S., the most expensive system in the world. And McCain's plan won't reduce the number of uninsured, and likely would increase their ranks.

If that's too much to read, you can always go to a Sept. 16 L.A. Times story summarizing the Health Affairs articles.

Even if you've got a job with health insurance, don't think this debate isn't about you. The Segal Co., an actuarial and consulting firm, has put together a report on how the candidates' health reforms will effect your benefits.

If it's issues you want, healthcare is a good one. Don't say we didn't tell you.

-- Susan Brink

Photos: Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama at recent campaign stops. Credits: Left, Gerardo Mora / Getty Images; right, Keith Srakocic / AP

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Comments (27)

obama's plan and Mccains plan carry a financial burden, but Obama's WILL be paid for by implimenting his tax plan.....Rasing taxes on households raking in more than $250,000/year....actually this plan really starts affecting those who make over a couple million per year.....the people who make $250.000-$377,000 will see taxes go up about $12/year.....

Obama's plan is also paid for by ending our costly occupation of Iraq.

It brings down costs by the fact that increasing the number of insured brings costs down for everyone, since more people get preventive care earlier on. That reduces the number of emergency room visits that the insured paid for by hidden cost transfers. It also brings down costs by creating larger coverage pools; the whole idea behind insurance is that it's cheaper for everyone if more people pool their money. It also brings down costs by linking Medicaid/Care to health outcomes rather than procedures performed, so practitioners aren't getting paid for inefficiency. There's a lot more, but I'd refer you to his actual proposal from here on.

Come to think of it, how does anybody say that Obama's health care plan doesn't do anything to bring down costs? Other than, say, McCain or Palin?

Essentailly the Democrats think Obama will give them something for nothing. It's all smoke and miirrors. When the Dems wake out of their little Disneyland, it will be too late and they will find themselves in s socialist nightmare. Obama brings nothing to the table but tons of fiscal debt.
So the country jumps out of the frying pan into the fire. We are in dispair but with Obama's policies we are doomed. Lots of luck suckers.

Actually, an analysis by the Wall Street Journal, a paper whose editorial pages typically bear a right-wing slant, detailed how Obama's plan WOULD curb the escalating costs of health care, calling his plan "far superior." These methods (insurance pooling, focusing on prevention, and altering remuneration for patient outcome, not number of procedures) are also available on the sites you included in this article.

Did you bother to read the research you summarized for your "bottom line"?

Dear dragonfly777, you make no sense. It would behoove you to think before uttering (or typing) statements. What do you mean "Essentially the Democrats think Obama will give them something for nothing"? What does this mean? What are you talking about? Who thinks this? Essentially? Really? Take a course on reasoning skills, and maybe the rest of the country should join you. We'd have a lot less idiotic comments and beliefs.

The cost of health care will never go down because Americans are living much longer. After age sixty drugs are what is keeping us alive. As we demand more expensive and high powered health care the cost will continue to rise. It's just like a car when it gets older and starts to break down you have to put more money in it to keep it going. We only get one body in this lifetime and no health care plan is going to fix that.

Re: Dominick's post...

That WSJ article was an opinion piece... don't try to peddle that crap out.

Also, how many of you Obamanicacs think that the troops can be totally pulled out tomorrow? 12 months? to pay for the socialist health plan?

Did anyone think about the service level effect of his plan? Cost is one thing, but if you can't see a doctor for weeks, who cares if it is xx% cheaper? I don't know of any gov't run program that anyone is happy with...

Outside of healthcare, if he raises taxes on corporations and people making >250K, (these individual tax payers already pay more than 80% of taxes) don't you people think this will have an effect on everyone else? Such as lowered valuations on corporations >>> lower share prices>>> lower retirement portfolio values... I feel like there is a general lack of macro economic thinking here. Weird since Obama is actually affiliated with Univ of Chicago.

Just my two cents.

dragonfly777--So many Republicans are rude and crude people with nasty things to say and I am offended by your "lots of luck suckers" comment. We saw you all cheerleading that Palin silliness--a lot of you white and overweight and many are not too bright looking. I am sorry but that is my personal assessment and you get pretty personal, so I am "hitting back". Why don't you control yourself a bit and not insult your fellow Americans? It is most likely because most of you have listened to nasty people for years, been brainwashed by them (Rush, Hannity, Coulter etc etc) and so have no real thoughts of your own, have no idea what is going on in the world, and just fling garbage around. The truth is you are all being scammed. Rush, Hannity, Coulter, etc etc are scamming you as they are part of the elite rich getting richer. How about you, dragonfly...picked up a mill this week? Hanging out with Mrs. Rothchild are you? You're a common man that doesn't know you have been had. Corporate Socialism is the rule of the Republican Road, dragonfly. They take OUR money and give it to THEM. Wake up sweetheart!!

Obama's plan include's letting all illegal aliens into this country who want to, giving them licences and covering them with insurance. Is this what us tax payers want? He will cost us 1 trillion dollars in healthcare, why aren't they talking about that. Read the book Fleeced by Dick and read the truth about Obama. He is also the 2nd from the top that has made fannie mae topple and that also includes Hillary.

Re: Cost of Iraq War, did you know that during World Wars I and II, the tax rate for the highest bracket was in excess of 80% and at times 94%?

Funny, now we're waging a war with a 35% tax rate at the top, and many people who get around it by using the stock market to get 15% tax rate...unless you've got a 401k, in which case you don't have access to the 15% tax rate.

Guess what, the current Republican administration uses emergency supplemental spending bills to pay for the war off-budget. And it will be me and my children and my children's children who pay for this war, not the war-profiteering elite who started it. Irresponsible deficit spending should be called "tax your children and spend."

Now that the Democrats have managed to Socialize the financial industry, the banking industry, and the insurance industry, what is left except healthcare?

Pelosi and her minions will not stop until all of us can say we are on government benefits, because one way or another we will all be working for Uncle Sammy.

I am deeply disappointed as well by my Republican representatives who stand by idly while this silent revolution happens. Perhaps they are waiting for things to get so bad that the majority of hard working Americans will rise up in revolt. The problem with that strategy is that history shows it to be ineffective. People will not only blame the Democratic policy makers but also those Republicans who failed to resist.

all these plans do nothing but try to hide a pig under lots of lipstick. why do we need insurance companies in order to get medical care? why do we need these bloated, for profit bureaucracies, using some 30% of our health care money for their own benefit? exactly what value is a medical insurance company adding to the medical care system that we should pay them that kind of money?

we don't have to invent anything new, simply have to follow what the rest of the world did a long time ago. we're not healthier, we don't live longer, we have a higher infant mortality than most of the western world. why are we defending a system more expensive than any other in the world and providing sub-par services?

It doesn't take a rocket science to figure it out. A father who knows how to run a family budget, which congress doesn't know how, could do a better job.

If you need something you don't have the money to pay for and can't get a raise, you cut expenses elsewhere. The fact is, our government wastes billions, something my family budget doesn't have luxury to do. I don't want to hear this B.S. about having to raise taxes for middle class needs when they spend billions to take care of their cronies, bail out corps, take care of the needs and infrastructure of other countries, etc. It is about time for congress to cut the waste and spend our tax dollars on people at home for their needs instead of using our tax dollar to promote their careers.

Enough stupidity....we need fiscal responsibility....something any middle class American family understands, but that's the problem...the rich who live in Wash don't know the needs of middle class when their lifestyle doesn't have to worry about paying for health care, gas, utility bills, mortgages, food on the table, etc...which most of is paid for by our tax dollars for the privileged tax sucking servants of Wash.They are hypocrites without a clue.


can we be anymore IN the fire than we are now?

dragonfly777 "Lots of luck suckers."? We need a lot of things in this country and taking into account all points of view (accepting, rejecting, or modifying) is how we will come to the most viable solution. What we do NOT need is people like you. Make no mistake about the politics in this country, YOU are part of the problem. Ditch the attitude and show some concern for your fellow Americans. Please.

For people who says that Obama's health plan will work b/c:

(1) tax hike on the rich (above >$250,000): Nonpartisan economists says this will be bad for economy and

(2) He'll take us out of Iraq and therefore costs from the war can help w/health expenditures here. may be you haven't heard, he's planning to remove some troops (the one Bush has already approved) and we'll be moving troops to Afghanistan.

(3) Nationalized healthcare is toooooo tooooo expensive! All independent and nonpartisan groups have already reported this.

Truth is, neither plans will work. Healthcare will continue to increase, and there's a growing population who will need care. cut pharmaceutical costs you say? How do you incentivize a company to find new drugs and new cures? Create a capping system for the physicians? How then would you keep the good ones around? Good physicians, or at least experienced ones, have already dropped alot of HMO plans. Nursing w/the nationalized healthcare? You need to increase force in an area that's already a shortage. Increase the income to attract nurses? AND get more nurses in? THat increases costs again... and this is only the top of the iceburg.

Thank you for this article. And your message applies to other issues as well - if only most Americans could be bothered to tear themselves away from CNN and do some actual research. I'm tired of people saying they want to "hear" the candidates talk about "real issues" - they have both laid out clear plans on their websites which are a great place to start!

And prevention... I am ALL for prevention, and I think it's effective in reducing healthcare costs. The problem is, it starts w/the people. Lots of HMOs plans are geared towards prevention (at least they try too... ineffectively). But really, prevention starts w/the people... back again to the acountability for your self. How many people do you know, would rather resort to a quick fix (medicine) then to control their diet and exercise to try to prevent a disease or at least stretch out the time of actually getting the disease? How many are suppose to get their health checked regularly? don't? For those who requires medicine to maintain their health are non-compliant and end up in the ER?

I think that prevention is a MUST in the healthcare world... but it's all up to the people. Good think is that we are trying to move that way... sadly though, our society promotes fast food, video games etc... which gives rise to our obesity in children. At too quick a rate for me, unless we look at ourselves and fix our ways... together w/other factors, healthcare will continue to rise. And I don't see a fix, until it starts w/society.

Thank you for an article that actually addresses an important issue in this campaign, and not the day-to-day attacks. Now let's see if the comments, too, can avoid name-calling.

Dragonfly777, you make some bold claims about Obama being a "socialist nightmare" of "fiscal debt". Rather than respond with attacks of my own, I simply ask the reader: which party's presidents have, historically, been better for the deficit in particular or the economy in general?

Dragonfly, what world are you living in? Have we not all seen the nationalization (ooooh socialism) of some pretty major private corporations? Where does this fear of single payer/universal coverage health care come from? I keep hearing FoxNews talk about socialized medicine would mean you couldn't choose your doctor. That's the biggest load of bull ever. I used to live in Montreal where i could go to ANY DOCTOR I wanted and pay NOTHING. Now I live in upstate new york working a job that has, by most standards, very good coverage, but I have to pick my doctors out of a book of "participating providers." Some freedom.


Why would America REWARD complete Republican failure ?

We wont.

Some people on this thread seem to think that Obama's plan is akin to socialized medicine.

It isn't. The plan is designed to make sure that Americans have access to affordable health insurance through already available means and expanding programs.

We have major problems in our current healthcare system. Lobbyists from the Pharmaceutical companies, AMA, and other organizations and manufacturers are making sure that healthcare in America is unaffordable.

It will stay that way as long as healthcare is considered a for profit industry.

As with everything else in America, follow the money trail.

Hey H. A. Chandler,

"Now that the Democrats have managed to Socialize the financial industry, the banking industry, and the insurance industry"

Are you serious? I guess I was asleep when Nancy Pelosi and the democrats appointed Henry Paulson as Treasury Secretary. In case you haven't been following the news, the causes that have led to our current crisis stem from 6 years of Bush and a Republican Congress. The fevered march towards deregulation is what caused much of the mortgage problems, something that McCain and his republican ilk have held as their mantra for decades. It's ignorant comments like these that confuse so many Americans into thinking the Republicans can fix the problem they've gotten us into.


Susan Brink is right. There are multiple resources out there to understand how both presidential candidates aim to reform the health care system. However, the public debate of these plans often leaves one thing out:

The 800 pound gorilla in the room, and underlying issue in the debate over covering more Americans with health insurance, is that unless we get control of COSTS, we will never resolve the debate over how to provide coverage.

What we know about costs is that our disease burden or the number of people who are sick in this country is increasing and we are spending 75 percent of our health care dollar as a result. We need to do a better job of preventing disease and managing it when it occurs.

This will take new federal (including looking at how, not how much, we reimburse physicians and others) and state policies as well as employer being more aggressive in working with their employees who have a chronic disease. This all matters because the impact is not just what we spend on health care, but this disease burden is weighing down our economy. Those with chronic diseases can and often are more absent and less productive in the workplace.

Find more information at

So tax cuts to the people with expendable income - not able to put back and save the money (those who make under 40,000 a year), will still profit the corporations and will give more money to the rich as well.

McCain came out with a "smoke and mirrors" approach.... offering great health care credits for people 50-75,000 dollars..... Wow... he thinks we make that, as a working family with two children? help me please, thats like 5,000,000 being rich. Give me $150,000 and I'll be rich, you are ruining the middle class.

If you are a small business owner, your business is its own financial entity, and you pay yourself the wage recorded in your taxes and your business is taxed for its income. However, there are many credits and things he plans for the small business owners, such as tax credits for health care......

Obama has the right answers, McCain is an out of touch elitist. Obama has been in the shoes of the 95% who make less than 250,000 which way more than anyone I know personally makes.



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