Friday, October 17, 2008

McCain-Palin Campaign Conference Call On Barack Obama's Health Care Lies

"[W]hat we've seen on the issue of health care reform is the basic Obama strategy, which is attack John McCain and don't answer questions about your own plan, and the result has been the worst and the most sustained distortion of policy in this entire campaign -- a dubious honor that no one will be able to exceed." -- Doug Holtz-Eakin, McCain-Palin 2008 Senior Policy Adviser

Today, McCain-Palin 2008 held a press conference call with Doug Holtz-Eakin, McCain-Palin 2008 senior policy adviser, to discuss Barack Obama's health care lies:

Doug Holtz-Eakin: "I'm sorry to have to join you in such terrible circumstances, but what we've seen on the issue of health care reform is the basic Obama strategy, which is attack John McCain and don't answer questions about your own plan, and the result has been the worst and the most sustained distortion of policy in this entire campaign -- a dubious honor that no one will be able to exceed. Let me just go through the attacks we've seen running in a flood of ads nationwide and repeated in Barack Obama's stump speeches.

"Distortion number one: John McCain will tax health care benefits for the first time, having the largest middle-income tax increase in history. Absolutely false. Both before and after John McCain's reform, the tax code will subsidize private health insurance, period. Right now, we have a subsidy for private health insurance that is skewed towards the richest, most affluent Americans who have employer-sponsored insurance. After the reform, that subsidy will be equally distributed across all types of insurance, and the same amount will apply to every individual who gets private health insurance. Why Barack Obama, who preaches fairness at every stop, would oppose this is a mystery to me. Indeed, it's even more mysterious because it's an approach that was supported by his very own top economic adviser, Jason Furman. The Furman Plan which you could call the McCain Plan, would, quote, 'scrap the current deduction altogether and replace it with progressive tax credits, that together with other changes, would ensure that every American has affordable health insurance.' That is, in fact, the John McCain plan. Barack Obama is opposed to that. This is a distortion because it only focuses on one part of the plan, and ignores entirely the tax credit -- $5,000 for families, $2,500 for individuals -- that would go along with the plan.

"The second attack has been that, somehow, it'll be a tax increase. If you happen to have, from your employer, a health insurance policy that has, quote, 'as good as a member of Congress' -- that's the Barack Obama gold-standard for health insurance -- not only will you not only have a tax increase. You will have more tax dollars back for health care than you do right now, a savings ranging from $3,800, a bottom bracket of 10%, to $800 to the top income tax bracket at 35%. It's just a complete distortion to call it a tax increase.

"The second distortion is, John McCain will tax health care benefits for the first time, and send the money straight to the insurance companies. The truth is that this is simply a deceptive attack. American families get to decide exactly where they're going to put their credit dollars. They will pick the health insurance plan of their choice to meet their needs. It will give them the flexibility to tailor their insurance to the point in their life cycle. They can pick a policy that's portable and moves with them from job to job, from job to home. They will not have to change providers if they change jobs. Many people will, for the first time, will be able to say they have a pediatrician because they don't have to change every time they change jobs. Indeed, moving the money directly to the insurance companies simply is an administrative efficiency. And if Barack Obama favors inefficient large government, well then you should look at his plans. It's e specially ironic that he would attack this, with that this is his own policy under his Hope Tax Credit where the money simply goes from the federal government to colleges.

"Distortion number three: Under John McCain's plan, Americans with a pre-existing condition will not find coverage. Absolutely false. John McCain has pledged to the American people a Guaranteed Access Plan in every state that would cover those who are denied coverage because either pre-existing conditions or high cost. The guaranteed access plan would have capped premiums so that it is affordable. It would take advantage of and require the providers to use modern techniques like disease management to reduce the cost of care, and it would impose fines on those companies that denied inappropriately, so it would have a built-in check on the source of the denial.

"Distortion number four: The McCain health care plan will damage employer-provided insurance for millions of Americans. That's not true. In fact, the McCain plan is meant to augment the employer-sponsored insurance, which is the primary source of private insurance in America. Point number one is that, nothing changes with employers under the McCain plan. Employers can deduct right now, the full cost employee compensation, including their health insurance. They will, after the reform, be able to deduct the full cost of all employee compensation. There are incentives to provide insurance, which are to attract high-quality employees of various skills so that you can credit them in the labor market, will be absolutely unchanged. He has asserted that they will be left with older sicker pools because that young people opt out. Why would they do that? Right now, a young person, say a 25-year old, might be getting $4,000 worth of health insurance from their employer. That's not the greatest insurance in the world, but if they opt-out, they'll get $2,500 worth of health insurance, the maximum they can get with that tax credit. Why would they trade $4,000 worth of coverage for $2,500, if the out-of-pocket is no different? So the assertion that somehow this is a plan that is intended to harm employer-sponsored insurance is simply incorrect. It will allow the millions of Americans who are working and uninsured in small businesses across America to have access to insurance for the first time. Access to insurance is the gateway to better care. It's the gateway to treatment of conditions that would later be more expensive if left untreated. It is the most important way to get cost savings for the system as a whole.

"In contrast, Barack Obama's plan has been estimated to drive as many as 15 million individuals out of their employer sponsored coverage. And that's simply because he will impose a play or pay mandate on employers, something I want to come back to later.

"And then finally today, Barack Obama leveled the charge that the McCain plan will reduce Medicare spending by $882 billion. Let's consider the source of this charge. Number one, it's a study by The Center for American Progress, a fully owned subsidiary of the Barack Obama campaign. It is authored by individuals who have donated to Democrats including Barack Obama. It is hardly an independent neutral source. The method of doing this analysis is just dumb. It says that, let's assert that the McCain plan has a $1.2 trillion cost. Something that is false. And then divide that proportionally between Medicare and Medicaid to assert that we'll lose $882 billion in Medicare and the remainder in Medicaid. If you apply the same techniques to Barack Obama's plan, which has been estimated to cost $240 billion a year, over the next 10 years Barack Obama will be promising American seniors $1.6 trillion in cuts to Medicare, and America's poor $800 billion in cuts to Medicaid. The McCain campaign is not running ads and making speeches with those kinds of assertions. It is patently false. We're going to say, Barack Obama's plan costs money because third-party experts have estimated that it costs money.

"Now, the assertion that somehow we are undertaking cuts to Medicare doesn't stand up on analysis either. It is true that as we institute the following reforms promoting a payment reform that moves away from fragmented fee for service, volume based approaches to coordinated care with an emphasis on prevention and wellness. You might be able to actually achieve the same quality outcomes at lower cost. We do want to eliminate Medicare fraud and abuse, estimated to be $60 billion a year by the Inspector General and CMS. We would like to see that drug premiums are not subsidized for America's wealthiest participants in the Part B plan. We don't see why Warren Buffett should get a 75 cents on the dollar subsidy to his prescription drugs. We are in favor of a new generation of treatment models that will better manage the chronic diseases that are 70% of the bill in America's health care. Greater use of health information technologies. A business model to promote their spread, and an identification and implementation of a medical home model. We'll promote coordination and care and reduced costs. John McCain has long been a supporter of faster entry by generic drugs and favors a pathway to bio-generics. Greater use of generics and bio-generics will in fact lower the cost of pharmaceuticals in the Medicare system. In the context of a comprehensive reform of this type, where insurance is reformed, the subsidy to private insurance is reformed, Medicare payment and policies are reformed. We see no reason why the Medicare advantage plans should continue to get a $15 billion a year subsidy. We'll put them on a level playing field and save some money there.

"It's an interesting spin that the Obama campaign has chosen because some of the things that I just talked about -- managing chronic diseases, greater use of health IT, promoting prevention, greater use of generic drugs -- might sound familiar. It's because they are in Senator Obama's plan. He doesn't describe them as cuts. He calls them things that would strengthen the system and savings. So the spin is inappropriate. The distortion is outrageous. It's an attempt to simply scare America's seniors. And that's a way of simply answering questions about his own plan. What did we see in the debate this week? We saw John McCain ask Barack Obama, 'How will you implement your play or pay system?' Very simple. That's what's he's always said he has.

You either provide coverage according to the standards that Barack Obama will dictate to American business, or you will pay a fine. He refuses to say what that fine will be. Instead his answer was, well if you're a small business you're exempt. But he refuses to tell us what a small business is. So we've got a policy which he claims with a straight face to the American people to say I just explained my policy which neither defines who pays the fine, or what the fine is. He owes the American people a better answer. But his campaign went on record yesterday in The Wall Street Journal as saying that they have no intention to answer that question before November 4th. That's not exactly full disclosure of your plans to the American people, and in the face of the kinds of distortions he's putting on John McCain, it's even less impressive.

"He also has the comparable child mandate. He hasn't explained that. So in closing, I'm sorry for going so long. I've watched these ads. I've listened to these speeches. I have been appalled at the conduct of the Obama campaign. This is one of the most pressing domestic issues. It deserves a debate in this campaign that is comparable to its importance to the American people. And it's not getting that from Barack Obama. We have got a choice between John McCain's approach, which attempts to control the cost of health care. Making insurance more affordable. Revolutionize the treatment of disease in America to lower its cost. Achieve higher quality outcomes. Spread insurance to greater choice, giving individuals control over their futures. Versus Barack Obama, who has in fact said that he favors a single payer system. Something he denied to the American public in that debate. He has a system of mandates on employers, mandates on families. A big new gove rnment insurance program. A health bureaucracy. If you can't meet the mandates, you'll end up in the new plan run by the health bureaucracy. It is an expansion of big government. It is toward an ideal that he has said he likes; a single payer system. It is reminiscent of the democrats approach in pushing another important American ideal, housing for Americans through a big government Fannie/Freddie approach. Barack Obama's on the path to risky sub-prime health care. He needs to put that straight to the American people and stop lying about John McCain's plan."

Listen To The Conference Call

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