Economic plans unveiled

There is a fundamental difference at the heart of the health-care reform proposals of Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.

McCain wants to weaken the employer’s responsibility to insure employees, while Obama wants to expand the existing employer and government-based insurance system.

As the country heads into a recession, economists question whether or not there will be any money left for either plan; both proposals could further increase the country’s $10.2 trillion national deficit.

According to Business Week Online, neither candidate has backed down from his pledge to extend insurance coverage to the 45 million Americans who are currently uninsured, while reining in health-care inflation, which now runs at about 9 percent annually.

The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit organization that studies health-care issues, estimates that McCain’s plan would reduce the number of uninsured Americans by 1.3 million over the next decade, at a cost of $1.3 billion, while Obama’s plan would reduce the uninsured by 34 million and cost $1.63 billion.

McCain wants to tax employer-sponsored health insurance as income, removing the tax exemptions currently granted to the 177 million Americans covered through their workplaces. If employees keep their employer-based insurance policy it would be considered income and would be taxed.

To balance out the new addition to income, a tax credit would be granted, up to $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families. Employees would also have the option of dropping the company insurance to avoid tax penalty and combining the tax credit with money they were contributing to their original policy and buy insurance on the open market.

According to to encourage competition, insurance companies can be sold across states, which is currently not allowed in most of them. McCain’s plan also calls on the federal government to work with states to create a Guaranteed Access Plan to ensure that people are not denied coverage for preexisting conditions.

In contrast, Obama would mandate that all employers either offer health benefits to their employees or contribute to the cost of a new public program. Small employers and individuals with no job-based insurance could enroll in this new Medicare-like plan, and subsidies would be available based on income. All children would be required to have health insurance, and Medicaid and SCHIP (federal insurance for children) would be expanded.

Both candidates’ plans push for developing healthcare information technology, allowing patients to receive imported lower-cost drugs from foreign countries and encourage prevention over treatment.