McCain, Obama Agree That Health Care Reform is Needed But Have Separate Ideas How to Fix It

John McCain and Barack Obama agree that our current health care system isn’t working. They each believe that the country needs to reduce the ranks of the 46 million uninsured and provide alternatives to job-based insurance. But any similarities between the presidential hopefuls’ health reform proposals cannot be found.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

McCain’s proposal relies on the private market to heal the ailing system. He proposes eliminating tax breaks employers enjoy for subsidizing health insurance, thereby treating the benefit as a taxable wage, and offering tax credits – up to $2,500 for an individual and $5,000 per family – to help people buy their own policies in the open market.

Obama’s remedy would build on the current system, requiring employers to provide meaningful coverage or contribute to a new public plan. Unlike a pure single-payer or government-run program, the public plan would give people guaranteed access to a mix of government and private plans with benefits similar to those available to federal workers.

Both plans come at a cost, the details of which remain murky. And the promise of health care reform seems all the more questionable – at least for the foreseeable future – given the current economic meltdown. The credit crisis could make the money required for an overhaul much tougher to come by, especially if a bailout for the financial sector is enacted.

But supporters of reforming the system say the country can’t afford to ignore health care, a $2 trillion piece of the economy that plays an essential role in the daily life of Americans.

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