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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Elizabeth Edwards Examines John McCain's Health Plan

Elizabeth Edwards has been reviewing Presidential-candidate John McCain's health plan (you can see it here) and she isn't too happy about what she finds in it.  She also wonders whether John McCain would be covered under his own plan?  She sets forth some of her concerns here.  She has posted a few questions for him at Thinkprogress.  She asks, 

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.

Senator McCain likes to start speeches with a litany of questions that, presumedly, less plain-spoken politicians would refuse to answer. Well, here are some questions he does not ask but, as that plain-spoken politician, he might want to answer:

1. Under your plan, Senator McCain, would any health insurer be required to sell you or me (or those like us with pre-existing conditions) a health insurance policy?

2. You say your plan is going to increase competition to the point that it actually lowers costs. Isn’t there competition today among insurance companies? Haven’t costs continued to go up despite that competition?

3. You say that under your plan everyone is going to pay less for health insurance. Nice words, I admit, but they are words we have heard before. You must know when American families calculate the actual cost of health care, they have to include those deductibles and co-pays and not just the cost of the insurance. Are you talking about cheaper overall or just a cheap policy that doesn’t kick in until after thousands of dollars of deductibles have been paid?

4. 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?

I am not confused about your reputation: you are the straight-talker, you like to say. This is about health care, Senator McCain. Doesn’t the American voter deserve some straight answers to these questions? As one of those with a pre-existing condition, I sure would like some straight talk.

– Elizabeth Edwards

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