Zero:McCain's False Attack on Obama's Health Care Plan

Barack Obama had a lot of very good moments last night. On substance, I thought this exchange with McCain (on health care mandates and tax credits for health care for small businesses) was his best, via Josh Marshall:

Transcript on the flip.

By Big Tent Democrat, speaking for me only

MCCAIN: Now, Joe, . . . if you're out there, my friend, and you've got employees, and you've got kids, if you don't get -- adopt the health care plan that Senator Obama mandates, he's going to fine you. Now, Senator Obama, I'd like -- still like to know what that fine is going to be, and I don't think that Joe right now wants to pay a fine when he is seeing such difficult times in America's economy.

. . . OBAMA: I just described what my plan is. And I'm happy to talk to you, Joe, too, if you're out there. Here's your fine -- zero. You won't pay a fine, because...


OBAMA: Zero, because as I said in our last debate and I'll repeat, John, I exempt small businesses from the requirement for large businesses that can afford to provide health care to their employees, but are not doing it. I exempt small businesses from having to pay into a kitty. But large businesses that can afford it, we've got a choice. Either they provide health insurance to their employees or somebody has to.

Right now, what happens is those employees get dumped into either the Medicaid system, which taxpayers pick up, or they're going to the emergency room for uncompensated care, which everybody picks up in their premiums. The average family is paying an additional $900 a year in higher premiums because of the uninsured.

So here's what we do. We exempt small businesses. In fact, what, Joe, if you want to do the right thing with your employees and you want to provide them health insurance, we'll give you a 50 percent credit so that you will actually be able to afford it. If you don't have health insurance or you want to buy into a group plan, you will be able to buy into the plan that I just described.

Now, what we haven't talked about is Senator McCain's plan. He says he's going to give you all a $5,000 tax credit. That sounds pretty good. And you can go out and buy your own insurance. Here's the problem -- that for about 20 million people, you may find yourselves no longer having employer-based health insurance. This is because younger people might be able to get health insurance for $5,000, young and healthy folks.

Older folks, less healthy folks, what's going to end up happening is that you're going to be the only ones left in your employer-based system, your employers won't be able to afford it. And once you're out on your own with this $5,000 credit, Senator McCain, for the first time, is going to be taxing the health care benefits that you have from your employer. And this is your plan, John. For the first time in history, you will be taxing people's health care benefits.

By the way, the average policy costs about $12,000. So if you've got $5,000 and it's going to cost you $12,000, that's a loss for you.

Last point about Senator McCain's plan is that insurers right now, the main restrictions on what they do is primarily state law and, under Senator McCain's plan, those rules would be stripped away and you would start seeing a lot more insurance companies cherry-picking and excluding people from coverage.

That, I think, is a mistake and I think that this is a fundamental difference in our campaign and how we would approach health care.

< McCain's HOLC Moment | McCain On Roe: "Elections Have Consequences" >
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    McCain was not well-prepped. (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by ThatOneVoter on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 07:56:59 AM EST
    From his expression, you'd think he didn't even know   anything beyond his talking points about Obama's health care plan.
    Also, is he in a bubble? How can he think that people will believe that $5000 buys an insurance policy? In a way, that's worse than not knowing the price of milk, isn't it?

    That's the water cooler talk.... (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by kdog on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 09:02:57 AM EST
    here in the office this morning..."I can't get insurance for 5 grand, is McCain high?"

    you must have the "cadillac gold plated" (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 09:24:59 AM EST
    plan, no race baiting intended.

    Funny how McCain talked about how 47 million people are not insured and did not mention how his plan would help those people get insurance and pay for it.  5k year when you have no job or are living week to week is tough.  $400 a month for someone who is struggling to pay their mortgage, cutting coupons, leaving their heat on at 66, car pooling or biking to work, buying their kids clothes and trying to pay for their kids field trips at school is a TON of money.

    Of course when you own 13 houses or make a Senator's wage, that stuff is completely foreign to you.

    If I did not grow up so poor it would be foreign to me as well.  

    Is Joe the plumber the average plumber?  My plumber Larry, who fixes our old pipes a couple times a year is not making 250k. How many plumbers are in that category?


    If you own a rather large and successfull... (none / 0) (#6)
    by kdog on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 09:57:01 AM EST
    plumbing contracting company, sure it is possible...but you better be landing big commercial jobs.  The companies that get all that work by me are contracting corporations
    with multiple partners...the little guy can't compete.

    I don't see the small plumbing contracting company doing residential/light commercial stuff clearing that kinda bank...no way.  A guy I used to buy reefer from owned a small plumbing business like that, and he was selling reefer to supplement his income, so you know he wasn't making anywhere near 250k with his plumbing business, and that is in NY, where it costs more and you make more.

    A union plumber working for a large contractor is probably pulling down around 100k w/ steady work and overtime.  


    And you're other point is spot on.... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by kdog on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 10:06:00 AM EST
    for the good number of Americans living check to check and struggling...if they got McCain's 5 grand for health coverage, are they gonna buy health coverage or catch up on the bills?  When the utility company is threatening to kill the power, the gas company is threatening to kill the heat, landlord/bank threatening eviction...health insurance is the furthest thing from your mind, especially if your in relatively good health.

    You are one of the more sensible people here (none / 0) (#8)
    by Pepe on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 10:19:44 AM EST
    so here is a question for you.

    Let's say a very small employer cannot afford to give his employees insurance even with a 50% credit. Obama says those non-insured employees can enroll in the government plan that congress has.

    What does Obama do for those people to make that plan affordable for them to pay out of pocket? do they get a tax credit for a certain amount of money? a discount of some sort? What is offered to the uninsured employee or to the unemployed person?


    Good question.... (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 10:27:19 AM EST
    that I can't answer.

    Anyone know?  How does a low income person afford to enroll in the federal employee plan in Obama's proposal?


    buying into a fed program (none / 0) (#11)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 10:57:56 AM EST
    on a sliding scale in accordance with your income.  Some large corporations cover all of your health care costs and O's strategy to fine them for not providing it (not covering its total cost) prevents a mass exit from private to public.

    It would be nice to know what that (none / 0) (#12)
    by Pepe on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:05:49 AM EST
    sliding scale was.

    It would also be nice to know how much he would help employees whose employee portion and co-pays have increased to afford their portion of employer provided insurance. I just went to his website and neither of those things are listed.

    Without listing actual dollar amounts or percentage of income or ceilings his plan is long on a pretty story and short on specifics.

    I'd rather not be presented a plan where I don't know what it is going to save me or cost me. That is what Obama is doing.


    perhaps (none / 0) (#16)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:16:28 AM EST
    but the plan as i understand is based on economies of scale and with more people in the pool the price goes down from the bidding companies.  So the costs to the taxpayer should be offset by the savings by bulk purchases.  You cannot determine (you can estimate) what the costs are until you have competing bids from firms regarding the coverage costs for an increased pool.  

    I would not forego covering my employees unless they thought they could get a better plan from the gov't one and our plan is expensive, not the "cadillac gold plated" but in the top 3 for coverage with Aetna.

    When the gov't refused competitive bidding for medicare we overpaid for the products and services.  You want to talk about waste, you can start right there.  It is incumbent upon the gov't to negotiate with competing bids which has not been happening on a regular basis for the past 8 years on a multitude of fronts.

    In any event, having it cover the majority of americans without creating significant costs to the taxpayer is predicated on a variety of contributing factors.  Those factors will shake out once the bidding process begins and how the next president reframes purchasing agreements, especially those with no-compete bids...


    None of that answers (none / 0) (#17)
    by Pepe on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:32:40 AM EST
    the questions I had regarding how much the government (From Obama's website: "similar to the plan available to federal employees and members of Congress") plan would cost people - and how much his plan would help with the employees portion of the cost of employer provided insurance.

    So still no specifics. I'm sure you didn't buy your Aetna plan without knowing the specifics. so I'm not buying a word of Obama's plan without specifics either.

    The similar to in parenthesis above from his website strikes me the wrong way also as that is not how he made it sound last night. Another strike against him and his plan.

    BTW when dealing with private insurance companies there is no guarantee whatsoever that more people in the pool is going to equate to lower premiums. That is wishful thinking and once again a promise that is short on specifics and guarantees.


    you are right, variables (none / 0) (#18)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:36:41 AM EST
    It is estimated I read that it will cost 50-60 bn.  And again, it is a plan that has to pass the house and the senate.  I support the plan in its goal but want to see the cash outlay and the cuts which will help pay for it.  Robbing from peter to pay paul is sometimes good, sometimes bad.  I would love to see defense cut by 30% which will still leave us at 40% of the WORLD's defense spending, and 3x that of China.  Of course that ain't gonna happen but I care more about the health of my fellow citizens than indulgent defense spending.

    We are not going to see (none / 0) (#23)
    by Pepe on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:57:32 AM EST
    any changes or additional help with health insurance for years to come. With the economy in a multi-year recovery mode, shrinking tax revenues as a result, and other priorities that congress will have to fill their calenders, health care legislation is way down the road, as is the job creation Obama promises.

    I heard an economist say last night that Obama has many long range plans but no short term plans. When you listen to Obama speak that economist is right. Everything with Obama is ten years down the road. That hardly inspires executive confidence when his max term is 8 years.

    Even last night when asked about what his 4 year goals were in reducing foreign oil dependency he gave a ten year answer! Whether it be a 10 year goal or an 8 year goal where are the incremental goals that lead to the 10 year goal? Without those I can have little confidence in reaching the ten year goal. 10 year goals in maybe an 8 year administration sounds like not wanting to accept responsibility during your term behind the desk.

    If I were hiring a CEO or even a GM and they did not or could not give me incremental goals that led to the ultimate long range goal I would not hire them. Neither candidate passes that threshold of trust and confidence.


    I want it all, and I want it now (none / 0) (#24)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 12:15:22 PM EST
    the human condition...Which is also the foundation of why we are in this position. Long term strategy creates long life, short term soundbytes make americans happy.

    I want more emphasis on long term thinking and less on soundbytes.  Let's look back at Clinton's promises during his campaign and his accomplishments vs George W. Bush.  Clinton was all about the long term, George a combo.  One was a dismal failure, the other created nearly 20 million jobs.


    Nice try (none / 0) (#29)
    by Pepe on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 01:00:05 PM EST
    I'm not talking about sound bites, but I think you already know that. I'm talking about a plan, a road map with achievement markers along the way to verify the long term strategy is on course.

    You say you are a business owner so I would hope that you have a business plan in writing that provides both a long term goal & plan to get there and achievement markers along the way to keep those goals on course within the prescribed timeframe.

    Bill Clinton had them and he dug us out of a hole. Where are Obama's because he is going to have a deeper hole to dig us out of.

    Just as an observation I remember looking at George Bush at his initial inaugural. He literally looked scared to death. As if the reality that the easy part, the campaign, was over and the hard part was just to begin had sunk in. He looked like 'What have I got myself into?'. He looked unsure of himself as if wondering if the old adage of Look Out What You Wish For was oh so true.

    It will be interesting to see Obama's expression at his inaugural. Personally I think he is way over his head and that come 4 years from now people will be second thinking their hate for Hillary.


    I wrote a business plan 7 years ago (none / 0) (#33)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 01:16:21 PM EST
    and never looked at it again.  My business is about relationships and I have survived 2 recessions.  I have provided 401k with matching at the highest allowable, healthcare, full benefites and maternity/paternity time off with pay for 90 days post birth.  I also provide same sex couple with equal treatment and have carried  employees when we lost money in successive months.  All without a business plan.  All without monthly, quarterly, yearly goals and projections.  

    I have no aspiration to be a 20 million dollar business nor have I ever made it a point to follow a chart to my path of success.  I look at business as an extension of who I am, not who I am.  By providing a comfortable work environment and forfeiting earnings through generous contribution to health and 401k and carrying people in the hard times, my business has succeeded.  

    I am in the tax bracket that Obama will raise taxes on and at the lower end of that bracket. Financially speaking I should have no desire to support him.  But taxes are not a burden to me because I was raised on food stamps and public help.  They are not a burden to me because I am incredibly lucky not to have to worry about whether or not I can buy my children boots for the winter.

    So your hopes for my business are not reflective of my values or path to success.  My business plan centers around people and those relationships and the commitment to both.  I am fortunate enough to live comfortably and provide for my family and my extended family.  If our gov't had a fraction of that very attitude it wouldn't be in the pickle it is in.


    Stop calling yourself a hypocrite bro.... (none / 0) (#35)
    by kdog on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 01:39:32 PM EST
    you've got a lot to be very proud of, your employees are very lucky to have you...and I'm sure you'd say vice versa.

    You're a good man Charlie Brown:)


    I call em as I see em (none / 0) (#36)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 01:56:37 PM EST
    and I can see my hypocrisy.  Doesn't make me any less a person but reminds me of how difficult life really is and how gray is more palatable than black or white.  John Prine  said it best in my opinion:

    "a old man goes to be with his conscience each night, a young kid to sleep with his dreams.."

    and you are right, despite my failings my employees care about me and not just because I care about them...


    Thanks for the bio (none / 0) (#38)
    by Pepe on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 05:47:07 PM EST
    I'm not sure it answered my post but it sure brought a tear to my eye. You ought to repost that in every thread so everyone knows all about YOU.

    will do (none / 0) (#39)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 07:29:25 PM EST
    thanks for the tip.  When you bring up what someone should or shouldn't do in their biz, it touches nerves.  

    You have bored me.


    Ha! (none / 0) (#40)
    by Pepe on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 10:00:55 PM EST
    I don't buy it because nerves and boring don't go together do they? Your self portrait was hardly a labor of being bored. Unless of course talking about yourself bores you. It didn't read that way to me. It seems you are quite taken by yourself which is great for you but boring for everyone else. Yawn.

    egos (none / 0) (#41)
    by Jlvngstn on Fri Oct 17, 2008 at 08:51:20 AM EST
    People posting their opinions on blogs typically have oversized egos, and I definitely fall into that category.  

    People posting on blogs generally think they know something that our leadership does not, I definitely fall into that category.

    People posting on blogs have anonymity that is unparalleled with public figures and without knowing who or what is driving those opinions.  Providing information about who you are gives other bloggers the opportunity to form an opinion of you based on what you write accurate or inaccurate, embellished or completely truthful.  

    People who post on blogs can be pompous and certain without being right, and I fall into that category on occasion.  Such as when I said unemployment will most likely be 8% by the end of the year with a high degree of certainty.

    You can take my post at face value with a degree of certainty that my ego was on full display.  I fully believe that if our gov't treated our people like I treat my employees, we would be better off as a nation.  Now that is an incredibly hubristic point of view and I believe it, it doesn't necessarily make it correct.

    In written correspondence much is consistently lost in translation as we are not privy to the tone of voice or the personal history sans a relationship with the person.  

    I have had many heated disagreements on this very blog with the right and left and having personal background information on those that I debate with has provided me with a different take on many of their views.  

    I would imagine that once you and I get past our whose weinie is bigger contest, we will probably have some rational good dialogue, as I have had with kdog, squeaky, ppj, patrick, suo, btd, stevem, larryinnyc.

    I respect all of their opinions among others.  There is no doubt that I have an ego, guilty as charged.  


    On the questions re: (none / 0) (#14)
    by lilburro on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:09:05 AM EST
    small business and healthcare, this is an okay reference:  Obama Healthcare FAQ

    On health care and economic/financial (none / 0) (#2)
    by gyrfalcon on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 08:44:09 AM EST
    issues, he sounded to me like he literally didn't know what he was talking about, either on Obama's plans or his own.  He's not consciously lying about Joe the Plumber and Obama's health care proposal, he was genuinely indignant.  He literally doesn't know the details.

    It must have left most of the viewing audience not knowing who to believe, and it's a point I think Schieffer should have stepped in and stated the facts-- that Obama's plan has always included an exemption for small business.  Then he should have pressed Obama to describe how he would define small business for purposes of that exemption.


    his face was shocked (5.00 / 0) (#3)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 08:53:52 AM EST
    he did not know.  His face when he thought O was lying was always with an indignant sneer, this look was "oh sh*t".

    I thought (none / 0) (#10)
    by shoulin4 on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 10:52:49 AM EST
    McCain's face was priceless. I'd kill to have that on a T-Shirt.

    did you hear him talking about luxury (none / 0) (#13)
    by coigue on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:07:04 AM EST
    health care plans where elective cosmetic surgery is covered?

    Does such a thing even exist?


    i was more intrigued (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:37:46 AM EST
    by "transplants". Did he mean breast implants, or kidney transplants?

    For Pete's Sake! (4.00 / 1) (#21)
    by coigue on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:42:12 AM EST
    You HAVE two!!!

    Not all of us... (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 12:26:46 PM EST
    ...have two.  Or even one that functions properly.

    but coigue is right (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 12:58:09 PM EST
    why do i need a health plan that covers transplants if I have two of em?  See that is what is wrong with this country, we are buying coverage we don't need.  When John McCain is president you betcha he will change the federal coverage to only cover those with one kidney, because they need it.  Hatchet first, scalpel second.

    Cool... (none / 0) (#30)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 01:05:47 PM EST
    ...I'll be in like Flynn then!  About time I caught a break...

    lol (none / 0) (#34)
    by Jlvngstn on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 01:18:05 PM EST
    Well your premiums will be higher than mine because you have one, so again my friend you are getting the shaft.

    When it breaks down completely (none / 0) (#32)
    by coigue on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 01:11:55 PM EST
    THEN you can call Mccain.

    "cosmetic" surgery is not always a (none / 0) (#15)
    by ThatOneVoter on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:10:00 AM EST
    luxury, for people with severe injuries or birth abnormalities.
    Perhaps those are the kind of surgeries he was referring to.

    that's why I used the adjective (none / 0) (#20)
    by coigue on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:41:34 AM EST

    It wasn't what he was referring to (none / 0) (#22)
    by coigue on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 11:45:29 AM EST
    he was acting like health care plans over $5000 per year are luxurious, like they cover botox injections and breast implants.

    It was supposed to be a defense to the argument that $5k isn't enough.

    My family health care is over $12K per year, and we have a copay.


    I understand that's the impression he (none / 0) (#26)
    by ThatOneVoter on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 12:37:00 PM EST
    wanted to give, but perhaps he was actually referring to "luxury" policies which would pay for repairing a hare-lip in  a child.
    Who knows.

    In Colorado... (none / 0) (#27)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 12:44:13 PM EST
    ...that coverage is a mandated benefit, and is included in all polices--not just the "luxury" policies.  

    The point I was attempting to make (none / 0) (#31)
    by coigue on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 01:09:55 PM EST
    is that such a "luxury" policy does not exist outside of the imaginary world of the Republican frame.(Kind of like the imaginary droves of welfare queens living in luxury on the backs of the taxpayers)

    Obviously, I failed to communicate, but I think we both agree on the topic.


    Dumb and Dumber (none / 0) (#37)
    by Ellis on Thu Oct 16, 2008 at 05:13:13 PM EST
    It's really difficult to figure out who is dumber -- McCain or Palin. After only a few weeks on the campaign trail, it's not surprising that Palin has some sizable gaps in her knowledge (which newspapers she reads should, of course, never have been a problem, which argues persuasively that Palin's problem is a lot deeper than just being a newbie).

    The great thing about this little scene is watching McCain's face go from being totally smug to gobsmacked in a fraction of a second. I'm sure McCain thought this was going to be his great "gotcha" moment, when he would leave Obama stammering and groping for a way out.

    The funny thing his, Obama killed two birds with one stone: he told us how much the penalty would be and answered the other question that has been haunting the campaign trail for months -- what, exactly, is McCain's IQ -- Zero!!!