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McCain outlines plan to fix health care crisis

The Baltimore Sun

TAMPA, Fla. -- Sen. John McCain detailed his plan to solve the nation's health care crisis in a speech yesterday, calling for the federal government to give some money to states to help them cover people with illnesses who have been denied health insurance.

McCain's plan would shift the emphasis from health insurance provided by employers to health insurance bought by individuals, to foster competition and drive down prices. To do so, he is calling for eliminating the tax breaks that encourage employers to provide health insurance for their workers and replacing them with $5,000 tax credits for families to buy their own insurance.

The Arizona Republican's proposal to move away from employer-based coverage was similar to one that President Bush pushed for last year to little effect. And his call for expanding coverage through market-based competition is a stark contrast with the Democrats' proposals to move toward universal health coverage, with government subsidies to help lower-income people afford premiums.

McCain had previously described aspects of his health care plan. Yesterday, he offered new details on how to cover people with existing health problems, in a nod to the growing concerns about the difficulties that many sick, older and low-income people have in getting insurance. Democrats had said his market-driven plan, by not compelling insurance companies to cover people with health problems, would ignore the plight of people who have trouble getting coverage.

Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, recently pointed out that both she and McCain could be left uncovered by McCain's plan because she has cancer and he has had melanoma. Stung by such criticism, McCain is trying to develop a way to cover people with health problems while still taking a generally market-based approach to solving the health care crisis.

Unlike McCain, Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois and Hillary Clinton of New York would make it illegal for health insurance companies to deny an applicant because of health status. They argue that such regulation is needed to end discrimination against those with pre-existing medical conditions.

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