Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Health Care, Politics, and Disputed Numbers

It is to be expected that the claims made by political candidates will not only come under scrutiny, but also be hotly disputed across the board. So it is in the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Since universal care is within reach depending on circumstances, it behooves us to take a good look at the claims being made.

Kevin Sack, who blogs on The Caucus (The New York Times' political blog), brings us one of the aforementioned disputes in the form of quotes from the McCain camp juxtaposed against a panel of economists:

Senator John McCain’s top domestic policy adviser, former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas J. Holtz-Eakin, recently said in a conference call with reporters that Mr. McCain’s health care proposal would “put 25 to 30 million individuals out of the ranks of the uninsured, into the ranks of the insured.” In an article released Tuesday, a panel of prominent health economists concludes that Mr. Holtz-Eakin’s projection is off by, well, 25 to 30 million.
The McCain strategy, as unveiled so far, includes removing the tax exempt status of employer-provided health care while counterbalancing it with individual tax credits to make purchasing individual care less burdensome.
Within a few years, however, the trend would reverse, the study asserts. That is because, according to Mr. Holtz-Eakin, the McCain health care tax credits would be indexed to “regular inflation,” presumably the Consumer Price Index, which is typically lower than annual increases in health care costs. Unless costs can be substantially reined in, the credits would therefore enable fewer people to afford coverage each year, leading to an eventual rise in the number of uninsured.
Their findings agree with those of the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution last July which also predicts initial effectiveness followed by a steady upward creep in the number of uninsured. According to The New York Times, Holtz-Eakin did not respond to their request for a comment.

SOURCE: "Journal Disputes McCain’s Health Care Claims" 09/16/66
photo courtesy of SoggyDan, used under its Creative Commons license

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