The VP’s on health care…

Joe Biden, at the Vice Presidential debate, make a case against the McCain health plan.

Ezra Klein at The American Prospect said “Joe Biden just offered the most lucid and concise demolition of McCain’s health care plan that I’ve heard. He hit the taxation of employer benefits, the fact that 20 million would lose their health coverage, the failures of the individual market, and all the rest. It was [beautifully] put.”

Marie Cocco at the Washington Post, perhaps watching a different debate than Ezra, said that “Biden countered with a convoluted explanation of how that $5,000 wouldn’t be enough to purchase what is now a policy costing about $12,000, and which is subsidized with tax breaks for employers. That’s about as far as it went, and it’s not nearly far enough. “

Cocco continued,”In fact, McCain’s health insurance proposal would eliminate tax benefits employers now get for offering health insurance to their workers. This would effectively end the work-based health insurance system. Families would be left to purchase policies on their own, those who are sick would face much higher premiums, and the number of uninsured would rise, rather than fall, according to independent analyses.”

Merrill Goozner at GoozNews goes deeper into the substance of the debate, trying to take seriously aspects of the McCain plan–perhaps more seriously than McCain seems to take them.
Some make a case that the tax deduction for employer-based benefits can be better structured to be more efficient and equitable. But in the current system, removing this tax benefit would be a takeaway for both employers and employees, and give a significant push for at least some employers to drop coverage of their workers.
What workers would get in return is nothing close: a tax break that may or may not be of a similar dollar amount, but almost certainly not of the same value. For those workers swtiched from the employer-based coverage to the individual market, they not only lose the employer contribution, but the efficiency and bargaining power of group purchasing. Even with the same dollar amount in tax benefit, whatever they buy in the individual market will be a much more scaled back, less valuable plan, on average.
And for some with “pre-existing conditions,” they lose the ability to get insurance in the first place. McCain’s policy people said he would boost state high-risk pools, like California’s MRMIP. As we said with the recent veto of AB2 here in California, such efforts are deserving but too small and inadequate as a fix for the problem… and by shifting the tax burden to shift people out of group coverage in the individual market, the plan actually makes the problem worse.
It’s not just a tax increase, as the commentators indicate… It’s a tax increase that leads to a further unravelling of our health system.
Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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