Chicago Tribune uncritically reported false McCain claim that Obama "will fine" small business owners who don't insure employees

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

The Chicago Tribune uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's false assertion during the second presidential debate that Sen. Barack Obama "will fine" small business owners who don't insure employees. In fact, Obama's health care plan states that small businesses are "exempt" from its requirement that "[l]arge employers" either "offer meaningful coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees" or "contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan."

In an October 7 Chicago Tribune article about the second presidential debate, correspondents John McCormick and Jill Zuckman uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's false claim that "If you're a small-business person and you don't insure your employees, Sen. [Barack] Obama will fine you." In fact, Obama's health care plan explicitly states that small businesses are "exempt" from its requirement that "[l]arge employers" either "offer meaningful coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees" or "contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan." Indeed, in response to McCain's assertion, Obama said, "Small businesses are not going to have a mandate. What we're going to give you is a 50 percent tax credit to help provide health care for those that you need" -- a comment McCormick and Zuckman did not report.

In contrast with the Tribune, in an October 7 post on its blog The Caucus, The New York Times reported:

"If you're a small businessperson and you don't insure your employees, Senator Obama will fine you," Mr. McCain said. "He'll fine you. That's remarkable. If you're a parent and you're struggling to get health insurance for your children, Senator Obama will fine you."

Mr. Obama would, in fact, require medium and large employers to either provide coverage to their workers or pay a tax into a fund that would help subsidize coverage for low-income people. But his plan specifically exempts small businesses from the requirement. In fact, Mr. Obama proposes to offer a substantial tax credit to small businesses to encourage them to provide insurance.

Indeed, Obama's health care plan reads:

(3) TAX CREDITS FOR FAMILIES AND SMALL BUSINESSES. Barack Obama and Joe Biden understand that too many families that do not qualify for public health programs like Medicaid and SCHIP have trouble finding affordable health insurance. They know from talking to small business owners across the nation that the skyrocketing cost of healthcare poses a serious competitive threat to America's small businesses. The Obama-Biden health care plan will provide tax credits to all individuals who need it for their premiums. They will also create a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to provide small businesses with a refundable tax credit of up to 50 percent on premiums paid by small businesses on behalf of their employees. To be eligible for the credit, small businesses will have to offer a quality health plan to all of their employees and cover a meaningful share of the cost of employee health premiums.

(4) EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTION. Large employers that do not offer meaningful coverage or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees will be required to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan. Small businesses will be exempt from this requirement.

From the Tribune article:

McCain also charged that Obama's first instinct is more government.

"As you notice, he starts talking about government. He starts saying, government will do this and government will do that, and then government will, and he'll impose mandates," McCain said. "If you're a small-business person and you don't insure your employees, Sen. Obama will fine you. ... If you're a parent and you're struggling to get health insurance for your children, Sen. Obama will fine you."

And Obama painted McCain as just a captive of Washington as he criticized his energy proposals.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
Chicago Tribune
Person
Jill Zuckman, John McCormick
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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