A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

More on Obama's Health Focus

More on Obama's Health Focus

October 5, 2008

Obama continues to pound away on health. Saturday, he gave a in-depth speech (text; video) in VA contrasting his plan with McCain's. In addition to his points attacking the taxing of employer-provided benefits, Obama broadened his focus to insurer practices that would be permitted under McCain's plan, and outlawed under his:

Here’s another thing Senator McCain doesn’t tell you – his plan won’t do a thing to stop insurance companies from discriminating against you if you have a pre-existing condition like hypertension, asthma, diabetes or cancer…the kind of conditions that 65 million working age Americans suffer from – people from all backgrounds and walks of life all across this country. Employers don’t charge you higher premiums for these conditions, but insurers do – much higher. So the sicker you’ve been, the more you’ll have to pay, and the harder it’ll be to get the care you need.

Finally, what John McCain doesn’t tell you is that his plan calls for massive deregulation of the insurance industry that would leave families without the basic protections you rely on. You may have heard about how, in the current issue of a magazine, Senator McCain wrote that we need to open up health care to – and I quote – “more vigorous nationwide competition as we have done over the last decade in banking.” That’s right, he wants to deregulate the insurance industry just like he fought to deregulate the banking industry. And we’ve all seen how well that worked out.

It would be equally catastrophic for your health care. Right now, different states have different rules about what insurance companies have to cover. Senator McCain’s plan would create a deregulated national market where companies can cherry pick the state where they’re based – and sell plans anywhere in America.

It’s the starting gun for a race to the bottom. Insurance companies will rush to set up shop in states with the fewest protections for patients. States where they don’t have to cover things like mammograms and other cancer screenings, vaccinations, maternity care, and mental health care. States where you don’t have a right to appeal when your HMO refuses to cover the treatment you need. These are commonsense protections to make sure that you and your doctor – not insurance company bureaucrats – are making decisions about your health. And John McCain wants to give insurance companies free reign to avoid them.

Along with the speech, the campaign has sent out health-themed mail pieces (more here and here) in battleground states, and did a conference call with reporters, featuring Kansas Gov. and former insurance commissioner Kathleen Sebelius. The campaign also unveiled a new ad, that contrasts the candidates on coverage mandates and pre-existing conditions:

Here's the question: does the increasing attention being paid by the Obama campaign to the health issue mean that an Obama victory will be seen as producing a mandate for comprehensive action on national health reform? Does this ad below help that cause? Discuss. . .

Brian Rosman

EQUAL TIME UPDATE: McCain response memo.

VALIDATION UPDATE: The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn covers the same ground (6 hours later!) and basically agrees with our point: "aggressively defining the health care issue now has one more advantage for Obama. It will let him use the waning stages of the campaign to build a mandate for reform. If he wins in November--and, to be clear, I don't assume he will--the time he spends promoting health care reform now will pay political dividends come 2009."