Back in the primary season, Obama and Clinton debated long and hard about mandating health insurance coverage, while McCain sat back and enjoyed his position as the presumptive nominee for the GOP. Clinton was in favor of mandating health insurance coverage for all Americans – a lofty but probably unattainable goal. Obama’s idea was to mandate coverage for children, but not for adults. Still a lofty goal, considering 12% of the nation’s children are currently without health insurance (that figure rises to 14% here in Colorado).
Now here we are in September, counting down the days until we get to cast our votes for the next president. David from Health Business Blog has written an article comparing how the health care proposals from McCain and Obama handle requirements to obtain coverage. McCain is opposed to the idea of mandating coverage or requiring employers to provide coverage. No surprises there – he’s a believer in the free market when it comes to health insurance and health care. I’m just not sure how well that’s working out for families who can’t afford $280,000 earrings. (As an aside, what Cindy McCain wears is pretty far down on the list of things that matter to me. If she chooses to spend her money on designer clothes and jewelery, that’s her business. But when the median home price in America is less than what her earrings supposedly cost, it does make one wonder whether John McCain can truly grasp what it is like to have to choose between paying for private health insurance and paying for food).
Obama’s position is for health insurance to be mandatory for children, and to require businesses to offer health insurance to their employees or pay into a fund for public health insurance. Small businesses would be exempt, although it’s not clear yet what would qualify as a small business. In reality, this may end up being a non-issue, since just about all large employers already offer health insurance to their employees.
Making health insurance mandatory for children is a tough point to argue against. Children aren’t able to decide whether they want health insurance or not. And good health in childhood lays a foundation for good health later in life. Obama’s plan calls for an expansion of government programs to assist families unable to afford private health insurance for their kids, so families wouldn’t just be told to sink or swim.
I feel like McCain’s health care plan just doesn’t address the problems facing uninsured Americans. In many ways, it seems that his plan is an afterthought, tacked on to the platform in order to appease the growing concern about health care in this country. His plan relies mostly on strengthening the private health care sector, which has shown little ability to regulate itself or adequately provide health care for all Americans. Obama’s health care plan is by no means a magic bullet. And let’s all keep in mind that no president is going to be able to overhaul our health care system on a whim – there are 100 senators and 435 representatives who have some input too. But I like the fact that Obama’s reform proposal is at least aiming towards health insurance for all children in America. It’s a small step on the road to health insurance for everyone, but it’s a significant step, and I’m glad his campaign has made it an issue.