The Bottom Line

Published 4:07 am Monday, May 5, 2008

By Staff
Is McCaincare the right Rx for America’s patients?
By Tray Smith
The ongoing debate about health care policy, which eroded popular support for big government liberalism in 1994, may be the leading enhancer of popular support for big government liberalism in 2008. Signs of this shift were evident when 43 percent of Americans said they would prefer a larger government that provided more services to New York Times/CBS News pollsters last month, tying with the largest percentage the Times/CBS poll has ever recorded supporting such sentiment.
This phenomenon is the political result of growing market anxieties, which are themselves a partial consequence of health care concerns. As the cost of health care rose from 13.7 percent of national income in 1994 to 16 percent of national income in 2007, the political climate for governmental action has improved.
The Democratic Party has capitalized on that improvement, a result of both its established reputation as a champion of universal health care and its reinvigorated efforts to change healthcare policy. But Americans worried about the rising cost of their medical treatment should not look for solace in liberal big government schemes less concerned by how much than how we pay for medical treatment.
With John McCain’s health care roll-out this week, a serious Presidential contender has at last seriously proposed increasing access to health insurance by decreasing the cost of health insurance. This would be accomplished by giving each American family a refundable tax credit of $5000 (half for individuals) with which to purchase health insurance, regardless of their economic status. This seemingly insignificant change would have noticeably significant affects, because it will free workers currently bound to their employer’s health insurance plan to purchase a plan of their own. McCain would also allow medical consumers to shop across state lines, freeing them from the burdensome regulations of state governments.
Eventually, companies will be able to drop the burden of providing health care altogether; boosting our national competitiveness and easing the burden skyrocketing health cost have imposed on American business. Simultaneously, medical providers will be forced to cater to individuals rather than organizations, hopefully igniting competition sufficiently intense to deflate health care cost.
Ideally, the federal government will eliminate the preferential tax treatment of health care, removing the fiscal burdens that entails. But, blending realism with creativity, John McCain has introduced a plan to achieve the same end. By becoming the first Republican nominee to specify what to do about health care rather than what not to do, McCain is doing himself and his party a great favor. And by focusing on lowering the cost of health insurance rather than shifting the cost of health insurance, Americans have a greater incentive to support his proposals than the costly Democratic alternatives.
John McCain has taken a great step in introducing a comprehensive health care reform plan. But it is up to him to enact that plan if he is elected. If he succeeds, patients and the Republican Party will end healthier.
Tray Smith is a political columnist for the Atmore Advance. He is a student at Escambia County High School and can be reached at tsmith_90@

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