$5000 won’t buy you diddly-squat

George Stephanopoulos followed up on Friday night and asked John McCain a little bit about his health care plan this morning. Specifically, he wanted to know if it’s true McCain plans to tax your health care benefits at work as if they’re salary. Not only is it true – very, very true – but you’re not getting the full story. McCain says he’ll give you a $2500/$5000 (individual/family) tax credit to go out and buy your own insurance instead. Sounds great, but do you know how much insurance costs these days?

Overall, premiums for family coverage increased to $12,680 and premiums for single coverage increased to $4,704, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust. Employers pick up, on average, about three-quarters of that cost.

Guess who gets to pay the difference if you want to keep the coverage you’ve got? Got an extra few thousand dollars laying around? Me neither.

So you go out and buy a cheaper plan because it’s all you can afford now, and you just hope to G-d you don’t get sick. Because those cheap plans cover nothing and come with high deductibles, higher co-pays, and so much fine print that you’re going to have the equivalent of the subprime mortgage crisis in health care. A lot of very sick people who cannot afford to pay their bills and who didn’t know their health insurance plan was crap.

Here’s the exchange from This Week. It’s not what McCain says. It’s what he doesn’t say that matters:

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the other points he made in the debate that you weren’t able to respond to in the debate, he said that, for the first time ever, you would tax health benefits by taking away the deduction that employers now get to provide health benefits.

MCCAIN: Right — this all began during World War II with price and wage controls. And employers then, because they couldn’t give them pay raises, gave them increased health benefits.

Now, my plan gives $5,000 tax — refundable tax credit for every family in America. That, for small — a lot — many — huge number of small-business people is a great step forward because they don’t provide health insurance for their employees. They can’t, and they can’t afford it.

This will, actually, by giving the — the worker and the family tax credits, they’ll be able to go out and then select their own health care insurance.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But even — but several…

MCCAIN: And we will be able to then make sure that they’re able to get the lowest cost, most available, most effective health insurance.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But several studies have shown that, for people who now get their health care through employers, this could be a tax increase over time. And your own economic adviser, Douglas Holtz- Eakin, told the New York Times, said the campaign cannot yet project how many taxpayers might see their taxes go up, but for some, Mr. McCain’s health care tax credits would not be large enough to compensate for his proposal to eliminate the tax breaks.

MCCAIN: Actually, my position is that it will be able to give people actually more money to go out and purchase tax — health — health insurance on their own. And only those with the Cadillac, gold-plated health insurance policies today are the ones who might suffer from it, the ones…

STEPHANOPOULOS: So they would see their taxes go up, potentially?

MCCAIN: It depends on — on what plan they have, but that’s usually the wealthiest people. Ordinary working Americans have the kind of — or overwhelming majority of them have the health insurance plans that this tax credit, refundable tax credit will actually put more money in their pockets for purchase of health care than what they had before.

McCain is so out of touch with how everyday people live and what everyday people pay that he thinks his plan is a gift.

It is. Just not for us. Merry Christmas, insurance industry.


started on-air as a sports reporter in Hagerstown, Md and was a one-woman-band - shooting, writing, editing, and working the teleprompter with my foot. I moved to NYC in 1999 and joined Pseudo.com - the world's first interactive TV network. Pseudo died Sept 2000, and the following years were filled with a series for Discovery International, a pilot for the History Channel, a pilot for the Travel Channel, and countless auditions. Client feedback research for a big investment bank paid the bills. In 2004, I took a gig with Kuma and made news reports for their reality-based video games. CNN called February 2005, and on Valentine's Day, I started covering the Internet as a beat on national TV. I left cable news in 2007, started this site, wrote a little for Americablog, and threw down the gauntlet. I said I'd leave TV to help fix health care if someone was taking a real stab at it. Someone was. I became the National Communications Director for Health Care for America Now. That was June 2008, and almost 2 years later - on March 25, 2010 - we won health care reform. I am currently at liberty.

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