Forty-seven million Americans, most from working families, have no health insurance. With the fear of an economic recession looming, tens of millions of additional workers are worried about losing their health benefits if they lose or change jobs. The health care proposals of Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain reflect two very different ideas about health care.
One-hundred sixty million Americans currently get their health insurance from their employers. Obama wants to expand the employer-based system, making it mandatory for many companies to offer workers health insurance. If they don't comply, they'll be required to pay a tax to help cover the uninsured.
"If you've got health insurance through your employer, you can keep your health insurance, keep your choice of doctor, keep your plan," Obama said in the final presidential debate. "The only thing we are going to try to do is lower costs so that those cost savings are passed on to you."
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Obama's plan also requires that children under 18 be covered by their parents' insurance plans or other programs.
McCain wants workers to buy their own health insurance, saying he'd give every American family a $5,000 tax credit toward the purchase of a private policy. He'd also change laws to let consumers buy cheaper policies from out-of-state companies, in an attempt to deregulate the industry.
"I want to give every American a $5,000 refundable tax credit," McCain said during the second presidential debate. "They can take it anywhere, across state lines. Why not? Don't we go across state lines when we purchase other things in America?"
Under McCain's plan, if you get health benefits from your employer, you'd be taxed on the value as if it were income.
Under the Obama plan, if you can't get health insurance through an employer, you'd be able to buy a policy from a list of government-approved plans.
In essence, the Obama plan wants to increase employer-based insurance with government help while the McCain plan wants to push people into the private insurance market.
Critics of the McCain plan say a $5,000 tax credit doesn't go far enough to buy a good family policy, which on average costs around $12,000, and that his plan does not provide enough government oversight.
Critics of the Obama plan say it relies too much on big government, adding billions of dollars in health care costs to the federal government's bill. They say it will put a greater tax burden on some American companies.
With the $700 billion federal rescue plan and other stimulus packages going into effect, specialists say that both candidates' proposals will need to be scaled back and may prove difficult to put into action.
Experts say each of the candidates' plans will ultimately cost the federal government more than a trillion dollars over the next decade.