Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Another presidential debate on health care reform

Tonight was the third and final presidential debate between Senators Obama and McCain before the election on November 4. As in the second presidential debate, health care reform was a hot-button topic.

Here is a quick rundown of the presidential candidates' plans for health care reform.

Obama's plan:

* Puts an emphasis on enabling research to find cures for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and stresses the importance of preventative care to lesson the cost of these preventable diseases (i.e. type 2 diabetes) over the long term.

* Attempts to both control health care costs and extend coverage to the uninsured. If you already have health care, you don't have to change anything, but if you don't have it or can't get on with an employer-sponsored plan, you can buy into the same group plan offered to Federal employees.

* Requires large businesses to either offer their employees health insurance, or pay a "fine" to help fund coverage (i.e. the Federal group plan) for their share of the uninsured. (Small businesses are exempt from this requirement.)

* Makes sure people with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, will be able to get health insurance. I am a bit fuzzy on this one, but I believe that he is talking about requiring that the Federal group plan cover people with pre-existing conditions, not that all insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions. Either way, it means I can always get health insurance, so I'm happy.

McCain's plan:

* Encourages people to buy their own health insurance by offering them a tax credit of $5,000 for a family or $2,500 for an individual.

* Enables people to buy health insurance across state lines — or, more accurately, encourages insurance companies to set up shop in the states that offer the least restrictions (not necessarily good for us, the people buying the insurance, though it sounds great for the insurance companies).

* Counts employer-sponsored health insurance plans as income, adding as much as $12,000 to your yearly income, and thereby raising your taxes.

One of the criticisms of McCain's plan for health care reform is that it will actually encourage employers to stop offering health insurance as a benefit. Another criticism is that only the young and healthy can actually find health insurance for only $2,500 a year — the rest of us will pay considerably more, if we can find it at all.

Obama's health care plan offers true reform for people like me, who have pre-existing conditions that make finding health insurance difficult, if not impossible. McCain's plan, on the other hand, doesn't reform the industry itself — it just shifts the responsibility of procuring health insurance onto the individual and away from employers.

My argument is that the free-market system is already clearly not working for the health care industry, as insurance companies are putting profit over people's health to such an extreme that both the cost of health care and the numbers of uninsured are steadily rising. So why would we think that giving them even fewer restrictions (i.e. McCain's plan) sounds like a good idea?

Since I am a type 1 diabetic, and health care is a major factor in my life, is it any wonder that I will be voting for the candidate who will do the most to help me and those like me?

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