Biden: McCain's Health Care Plan the Bridge to Nowhere

Biden pointing out that McCain's health care plan would tax our health care benefits and be a boon to the insurance companies:

[D]o you know how John McCain pays for his $5,000 tax credit you're going to get, a family will get?

He taxes as income every one of you out there, every one of you listening who has a health care plan through your employer. That's how he raises $3.6 trillion, on your -- taxing your health care benefit to give you a $5,000 plan, which his Web site points out will go straight to the insurance company.


And then you're going to have to replace a $12,000 -- that's the average cost of the plan you get through your employer -- it costs $12,000. You're going to have to pay -- replace a $12,000 plan, because 20 million of you are going to be dropped. Twenty million of you will be dropped.

So you're going to have to place -- replace a $12,000 plan with a $5,000 check you just give to the insurance company. I call that the "Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere."

[CNN Transcript]

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    That was my favorite policy answer (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 10:54:35 PM EST
    mostly because Obama missed his opportunity on it in his debate, and it is one point I can make in my arguments with McCain supporting co-workers that shuts them right up.  

    It's very confusing (none / 0) (#7)
    by JavaCityPal on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:04:25 PM EST
    Everyone gets a $5,000 tax break to buy their own insurance, so if the employer is paying the health premiums, that $5,000 will be a nice break for many. $5,000 won't go very far for a family of 2 in buying their own policy at today's rates, though.

    I won't touch his web site to try to figure it out.

    Every single candidate since the beginning of this has only had a health INSURANCE plan, not a health CARE plan.


    But McCain is also taxing you (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:20:31 PM EST
    on the amount of money your employer is putting toward your health care.  So essentially you have $12000 more in taxable income, in the example Biden gives. McCain is taxing you to pay for giving you that $5000, and in the process giving employers an excuse for dropping coverage altogether.

    I think he also drops the tax deduction employers get to take for providing you that coverage.

    No one I talk to at work likes that plan one bit.


    look (none / 0) (#16)
    by Salo on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:42:30 PM EST
    he's almost certainly not going to win.  No GOP pushed plan could ever have real merit anyway, because it seeks to create a profit incentive for health insurance.

    Do you believe that a democratic (none / 0) (#21)
    by JavaCityPal on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 09:28:19 AM EST
    congress would pass that for him?

    not likely (none / 0) (#23)
    by wystler on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 11:01:20 AM EST
    but even less likely: a GOP filibuster would stop in its tracks any Dem healthcare proposal, keeping a President McCain from needing to use a veto pen

    good thing that it's all a fairy tale ...


    Good Point (none / 0) (#19)
    by bison on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 12:42:56 AM EST
    Point well made!

    That answer (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Steve M on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 10:54:46 PM EST
    confused even me, frankly, although the conclusion was catchy.

    Somehow John McCain is going to tax the health coverage I get from my employer, but at the same time he's going to take it away and force me to buy a new one for only $5,000.  I can explain mortgage-backed securities but I can't explain that answer.

    Ifill asked her to address it (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by litigatormom on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 10:59:23 PM EST
    and her initial answer didn't address healthcare at all. Then Ifill asked her to address healthcare, and she didn't mention the taxing employer benefits. THAT's when Biden pounced on this point, and I cheered him when he did.

    McCain's "healthcare plan" is just a means of moving people off employer plans to more expensive plans with far more coverage exclusions -- and his "tax credit" will not cover even half the cost of that new, more expensive, more exclusionary plan.


    I can't imagine Congress (none / 0) (#6)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:03:05 PM EST
    passing that plan, even if McCain somehow gets elected. I don't know why he even proposed it.  I guess he thought he had to have something to say about health care.

    Pain was smart to not even try to talk about it.  


    Okay (none / 0) (#8)
    by Steve M on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:04:26 PM EST
    The GOP just can't seem to grasp the point that health care is an area where Americans really, really do not want to "shop around."  There are good market-based solutions but this is not one of them.

    Exactly (5.00 / 0) (#10)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:24:41 PM EST
    I've shopped around for my own insurance before.  The only efficient way to do it is via the internet, and lots of people aren't as comfortable with that as I.  Even then, it is painful.  (OT - not as painful as being a Cubs fan at the moment)

    And don't forget (none / 0) (#11)
    by Steve M on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:27:24 PM EST
    the GOP wants everyone to have a Health Savings Account and shop around for specific health care needs as well.

    There are people for whom an HSA is a good solution, but it's not because you want to call 6 different doctors to find out who will fix your broken arm most cheaply.


    lol (none / 0) (#14)
    by Salo on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:40:19 PM EST
    I have to put the phone down now my tibia is hurting the hell out of me Doc.

    tibia = shin (none / 0) (#17)
    by dws3665 on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:42:52 PM EST
    radius, ulna, humerus = major arm bones

    sorry - writing a medical student exam at the moment and couldn't let it pass.


    I disagree (none / 0) (#12)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:31:36 PM EST
    I have a terrific agent who every year gives me options from a variety of companies. He gives me side by side comparisons of cost and benefits which I can check out on their websites. He also gives me his opinion as to which I should take, but it's my choice.

    I couldn't have decided whether to go from an HMO to a Health Savings Account without his explaining it to me and answering my questions at least a half dozen times. Nor would I have had the benefit of his knowledge of pros and cons of the different companies. Plus, he did all the paperwork and it didn't cost me anything.

    I'm really glad I went with the HSA, by the way.


    What kind of leftwing talk is that? (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Salo on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:41:07 PM EST
    I'm not being snarky.  It shouldn't be a market. period.

    I'm glad that's working for you (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by jerry on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:58:34 PM EST
    I'm not certain everyone would get the service you found, or even be able to understand the costs and choices.

    Not disputing a word you said, having just used about $200,000 of healthcare, I just have to put in a good word for the excellent health care I get completely for free for me and my kids.  I don't know why my health insurance is so good: 100,000 employees?  An employer trying to make it a real job benefit?  The hard fought strikes of union employees that us professionals leech off of?

    All I know is that if it wasn't free, if I had to pay real month to month costs in addition to copays, I'd probably be a very very sad person this week.

    And I would like to see us move away from employer driven insurance plans to universal, I think one reason why we're not competitive as a country, is because competitors in other countries don't have to cost in healthcare coverage.


    It's not like Obama's pushing ... (5.00 / 3) (#13)
    by Salo on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:38:56 PM EST
    ...hard for UHC of course. I kinda start from the default position that the GOP don't want a rational healthcare system, so I really don't care much about McCain's proposal from the get go.  

    Yeah, he bungled it a little (none / 0) (#3)
    by ruffian on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 10:58:20 PM EST
    but he got the main point across.  I think the 'he's going to take it away' comes from companies dropping providing coverage because supposedly now you are getting enough money ($5000) to get it yourself.

    Steve, it's really pretty easy (none / 0) (#24)
    by JayBat on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 12:57:13 PM EST
    Employers who provide health insurance as a benefit currently get a tax break on that.  McCain wants to remove that tax break, which will cause a large fraction of employers to drop health insurance benefits altogether.

    Then McCain would use the resulting increase in tax revenue to fund the $5K/family payment, which is nowhere near enough to actually buy health insurance for a family.

    Does it sound like a really stupid idea?  Good, because it is.


    It isn't a stupid idea (none / 0) (#25)
    by kaybeel on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 01:16:26 PM EST
    It may not be enough money.

    However, the idea is to decouple insurance from your employer, so you don't lose your insurance if you move from one job to another, or if you lose your job.  


    Surprise McCain is a republican.! (none / 0) (#27)
    by 18anapple2 on Sat Oct 04, 2008 at 12:10:52 AM EST
    Actually its not that stupid..
    1.COST TO COMPANY is what an employee really costs the company..this is calculated as the salary that is actually paid out to the employee plus other benefits/perks etc.

    2.Currently your Employee Health Insurance is counted as part of your COST  TO COMPANY..basically it really a part of YOUR wages that you DON'T EVER SEE and that is paid out by your employer as Employee Medical insurance. Most often you cannot even get insurance tailored to your individal requirements as it is a group insurance .

    3.Your salary  is taxed but your employer gets a tax break on the medical isurance.
    Under McCains plan as the companies will not need to provide insurance,  the assumption (and a resonable assumption at that)is that the employer  will instead pay out that component ( IT REALLY IS YOUR MONEY AYWAY! )or at least a large percentage of of this component (now being paid as medical insurance in  "COST  to company" calculation )to employees as   salary thus translating into an INCREASED  salary in hand .This will be taxed as salary is .
    4.Theoretically you come out on top bec'os of the increase in your salary(less taxes) and the extra $5000.
    6.Advantage (in theory)
    a.Even if you lose your job you don't lose your insurance and you  still have the $5000 check to keep your insurance going.
    b.You can choose insurance tailored to your particular requirements and control how much you want to spend on it.So if  you need only basic healthcare since you are young and healthy or older yet relatively healthy you can save that extra money in a heath savings account for future use. (This would also be an incentive for people to get healthy and stay healthy!)  
    c.This would also definitely   help to make your medical insurance  completely portable because it is no longer tied to your employer.

    6.Another point that Biden made was that  McCain is seeking to deregulate the the healthcare industry (like banking!)..which is essentially a misrepresentation  
    What McCain says he  wants to do is allow you to be able to buy insurance across state line thus allowing you to shop for the best deal across the country  and forcing companies to become more competive and provide you relief from stupid state regulations that increase the cost of your insurance.
    SO while it is not Universal health care (neither is Obama's) it is not as stupid / ridiclous or malicious as Biden made it out to be. It is of course a "republican" free market can solve everything approach based on the principle that competition ensures quality and price competitiveness . Surprise McCain is a republican.!


    Palin's reaction to Biden's closing statement (none / 0) (#5)
    by punditgi on Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 11:02:41 PM EST
    By sheer dumb luck I switched from watching the VP debate tonight on CNN to seeing the closing statements on C-SPAN instead.

    C-SPAN used a split-screen shot the whole time. When you see Palin's plastic non-reaction to everything Joe Biden was saying, the effectiveness of his message is magnified a thousand percent!

    See if you can find it and have a look. It's worth its weight in gold.

    This is something (none / 0) (#20)
    by dcaster on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 08:28:22 AM EST
    Dems should be talking about a lot.  Everytime Palin or McCain mentions "redistribution of wealth," Biden or Obama needs to point out that McCain's health care plan is a giant redistribution of wealth:  from the middle class to health insurance companies.  Biden needs to simply his explanation of McCain's plan (which McCain doesn't seem to want to explain himself).  It's really just three steps:

    1.  Create a new tax on employer-provided benefits.  (And that's one of those moments where Biden should pause and say, "Let me say that again.")
    2.  Use that money to fund insurance premiums for every household up to $5,000.  Of course, you'll never get that 5K; it goes straight to the insurance company.
    3.  If you're good enough at shopping to find a plan for less than 5K, do you get the money back?  Not really--it goes into an HSA, that you can only use for health care costs (and if you can get insured for under 5K, you probably don't have much health care costs).

    I suppose only a maverick could refer to a $5K per household handout to some of America's largest corporations as a "tax break" for working people....

    Obama campaign commercials on healthcare (none / 0) (#22)
    by joanneleon on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 10:45:35 AM EST
    For the last two days, a new campaign commercial has been running here.  I'm a bit confused about it.  They say that you can keep your employer health insurance and keep your own doctor, and that Obama will take on the insurance company to lower costs.

    They mention nothing about the uninsured.  I thought that during the convention they talked about health insurance for every American.  I thought there would be the opportunity to buy into the same insurance that Congress has.

    Is that off the table now?  Does anyone know if Obama/Biden have changed their position on healthcare?

    This is important to me.  I am going to lose my insurance at some (yet undetermined) point and the ability to purchase good insurance is going to be critical.

    he's not really a proper person (none / 0) (#26)
    by Salo on Fri Oct 03, 2008 at 05:55:40 PM EST
    to lead the fight.  He's rubbish in many ways.