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The Obama Plan: Health Care Coverage that Actually Covers the American People

The Obama Plan: Health Care Coverage that Actually Covers the American People
By Rep. Jim McDermott, M.D.

The current health care crisis in America looks a lot like the current financial crisis in America, and we are poised for another meltdown unless we act quickly and responsibly, which is exactly what Senator Barack Obama proposes in his health care plan.

For years, the American people have struggled with health care costs spiraling out of control.  The financial impact on the average American family has become so severe that one thing Democrats and Republicans do agree on is the urgent need to do something to address America’s health care crisis. 

As a medical doctor, I see a health care system on life support - costing too much, reaching too few, and forcing too many Americans to abandon coverage altogether, not because they want to, but because they have to.  That is a call to action we must answer.

A generation ago, America wove a new social safety net –Medicare- to ensure that our senior citizens had access to affordable, high quality health care.  Medicare has made a tremendous, positive difference – just ask your grandparents. Its founding principles were to pool resources to benefit everyone, and use the power of the federal government to drive down costs and negotiate better deals. Medicare protects seniors from losing everything to medical bills, yet today many Americans are being forced to file for bankruptcy because of medical bills.  There is a better way.

Senator Obama has proposed a health care program that offers certainty and freedom of choice to those Americans not eligible for Medicare.  The Obama health care program allows Americans to keep their existing health care coverage, through their employer, for example, if they are satisfied with that coverage.  But, if you don’t have access to coverage, or can’t obtain enough, you can enroll in the federal program and purchase a public or private plan through a new insurance market called the National Health Insurance Exchange. 

Under the Obama health care plan, you could not be denied access for a pre-existing condition; your premiums would not increase; a new Small Business Health Tax Credit would help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees; and, regardless of whether you remain in your current plan or enroll in a federal plan, you would benefit from the federal government negotiating lower overall health care costs across the country.

Barack Obama provides measured steps to modify the current failing system in a way that protects Americans who already have health care coverage; reduces health care costs by demanding efficiency in the current system; and, provides a means to cover the millions of Americans who do not have health care coverage today.

Senator McCain, in contrast, has proposed a health care program that looks like the blueprint for the current financial crisis, and will produce the same dire result.  If you think you have to dig deep into your pocket now to pay health care costs, imagine if you have to come up with thousands of additional dollars every year just to stay even with what you have today.  Forget digging deep into your pocket; under the McCain plan, you won’t have any pants. 

Senator McCain wants to eliminate the tax deductibility of current employer-sponsored health insurance, and instead offer a $5,000 tax credit to a family to purchase health care insurance on the open market.  Good luck.  The combined employer and employee contribution to a health care insurance policy for a family today averages $12,000, so you will start out thousands of dollars in the hole.  Can you afford to pay thousands more than you are already paying for the same level of coverage?  John McCain likes to talk about the marvels of the free market, but his radical approach will put America’s already fragile health care system into free fall.

Fundamentally, the McCain health care plan means coverage for the rich, and prohibitive costs for the rest of us.  And make no mistake: employers will begin to drop coverage for their employees if its tax deductibility is taken away, as Senator McCain would do.  The McCain plan proposes deregulation, as if that worked on Wall Street.  The McCain plan takes a contemptuous view of government’s role and responsibility to protect its citizens in a civil society. 

Senator McCain wants to prevent government from standing by your side, leaving you vulnerable and on your own. Barack Obama wants government at your side, doing its part to improve the lives of all Americans. If the people demand that their government solve the health care crisis, it can be done.  Barack Obama’s plan is the way to do it.

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