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Health Insurance For All; How the GOP Can Frame the Issue

Author: Michael J. Gerson, Roger Hertog Senior Fellow
October 8, 2008
Washington Post

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It is a shame that a discussion of health-care policy has come near the end of the presidential campaign, when the level of discourse is at its lowest.

In the midst of assailing John McCain's mental health - he is diagnosed as both "erratic" and "out of touch" - Barack Obama and Joe Biden have pressed an attack on McCain's health-care plan that is deceptive in almost every detail.

McCain has proposed replacing the current government health-care subsidy for employers with a tax credit that would help all individuals and families purchase coverage. Biden terms this the "largest tax increase in the history of America for the middle class." He is off by - well, by even more than the norm of Biden hyperbole. In fact, the McCain trade-off would result in a significant tax cut for nearly everyone (except those with the highest incomes).

Obama breathlessly reveals that the McCain credit "wouldn't go to you. It would go directly to your insurance company." Since the credit is intended for the purchase of health insurance, where else should it eventually go? Is it a scandal that a child-care credit eventually goes to child-care centers?

"At least 20 million Americans," charges Obama, "will lose the insurance they rely on from their workplace." As Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center points out, this is a distortion. He cites a Tax Policy Center estimate that the McCain plan would result in 21 million people entering the individual insurance market by 2018 - many because individual ownership of insurance will be more attractive. In every mainstream analysis, McCain's plan would result in a net increase in the number of† insured Americans.

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