Health Care In The First Presidential Debate

With the first presidential debate concentrating on the financial crisis and foreign policy little attention has been paid to the disagreements on health care. When speaking of the economic crisis Obama repeatedly included the problems middle class families have with paying for health care. John McCain again mischaracterized Obama’s health care plan in saying, “I want to make sure we’re not handing the health care system over to the federal government which is basically what would ultimately happen with Senator Obama’s health care plan. I want the families to make decisions between themselves and their doctors. Not the federal government.”

In reality there is nothing in Obama’s plan which hands the health care plan over to the federal government. Obama’s plan preserves our system of private medical practices, but will help those who do not have access to our health care system to do so. Obama’s plan does not call for the federal government to make health care decisions for families, while many Republican policies do intrude upon the doctor-patient relationship. It is Republican policies which interfere with end of life decisions such as with the Terry Schiavo case. It is Republicans who interfere with a woman’s right to an abortion. It is Republicans who support policies which interfere with the treatment of chronic pain.

Obama showed how he could save money for taxpayers by ending the subsidy to insurance companies provided by the Republicans for treating Medicare patients in private plans for more money than it costs to treat them in private plans:

We right now give $15 billion every year as subsidies to private insurers under the Medicare system. Doesn’t work any better through the private insurers. They just skim off $15 billion. That was a give away and part of the reason is because lobbyists are able to shape how Medicare works. They did it on the Medicaid prescription drug bill and we have to change the culture.

Obama has previously criticized the subsidies to insurance companies under Medicare Advantage plans, as I have discussed here, and mentioned this when interviewed today on Face the Nation.  In January I summarized several previous posts on the topic for a post which was  written for The Carpetbagger Report.

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