Reporting on McCain health-care plan, USA Today left out projection that progress on uninsured will decline after 2013

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

USA Today reported that under Sen. John McCain's health-care plan, "[a]bout 4.6 million more people would gain coverage by 2013, the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center say," but it did not point out that the TPC also reported that after 2013, "the number of uninsured would creep upward." According to the TPC analysis, by 2018, the number of people covered would be only 2 million more than would have been covered that year without McCain's plan.

In an October 22 article, USA Today misrepresented the Tax Policy Center's assessment of how many Americans would gain health insurance under Sen. John McCain's plan, reporting only the peak year of gains. USA Today reported that "[a]bout 4.6 million more people would gain coverage by 2013, the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center say." While the TPC's September 12 analysis did estimate that McCain's plan would reduce the projected number of uninsured by 4.6 million in 2013 as compared to current law, USA Today did not note that the group further reported that after 2013, "the number of uninsured would creep upward." According to the TPC analysis, by 2018, the number of people covered would be only 2 million more than would have been covered that year without McCain's plan.

According to McCain's website, his plan provides "a direct refundable tax credit -- effectively cash -- of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to offset the cost of insurance." Like the TPC analysis, The New York Times reported on October 6 that "[e]conomists forecast" that the value of McCain's tax credit would diminish over time because "Mr. McCain, according to advisers, would index his tax credits to overall inflation. Health insurance premiums have grown four times faster than inflation since 1999."

From the Tax Policy Center's September 12 analysis:

Under our assumptions, Senator Obama's plan would reduce the number of uninsured Americans by about 18 million in 2009 and 34 million in 2018. (Table H2) Almost all children would have coverage because the law would require it, but nearly 33 million adults would still lack coverage in 2018. Senator McCain's plan would have far more modest effects, reducing the number of uninsured by just over 1 million in 2009, rising to a maximum of almost 5 million in 2013, after which the number of uninsured would creep upward because the credits grow more slowly than premiums.

Both plans are highly progressive, although Senator Obama's plan targets subsidies more toward low- and middle-income households and is thus significantly more progressive than Senator McCain's proposal. (Table H3) Senator Obama's proposal would reduce the number of uninsured for low- to middle-income families more than Senator McCain's proposal. In the short run, however, McCain's proposal would result in a slightly larger reduction in the number of uninsured for high income families, but the pattern would reverse after a few years. Coverage under the McCain plan would lag over time because the tax credits would grow more slowly than health insurance premiums (which is not true of the ESI exclusion).

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From an October 6 New York Times article by Kevin Sack, "Business Cool Toward McCain's Health Coverage Plan":

"There are huge questions about the $5,000 per family being an insufficient amount in terms of being able to purchase the same coverage," said Mr. [R. Bruce] Josten with the Chamber of Commerce.

Helen B. Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health, a coalition of 300 companies, agreed that many workers would face a net loss. "The last thing you want to do to the average working person, especially when you're bailing out big financial companies, is take something they hold near and dear partially away," Ms. Darling said.

Economists forecast that the problem would worsen over time because Mr. McCain, according to advisers, would index his tax credits to overall inflation. Health insurance premiums have grown four times faster than inflation since 1999.

From the October 22 USA Today article, "Health care plans: Obama vs. McCain":

Healthy individuals would see lower costs, while older or sicker people would see prices rise, says a Congressional Budget Office analysis of a similar 2005 proposal to allow insurers to sell across state lines. About 4.6 million more people would gain coverage by 2013, the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center say. The tax credit amount could cover the cost of an individual policy for young and healthy workers but would be unlikely to do so for older or sicker people, the Lewin [Group, a health care consulting firm] analysis says.

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John McCain, 2008 Elections
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