A little more than a week before California’s February 5, primary, state legislators voted down Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s $15 billion health care proposal. Since health care is the third most important issue for voters (behind economic growth and the war in Iraq) and failures like Schwarzenegger’s mean the health care debate will shift to Washington, now is a good time to review what some candidates health care plans look like.
Both Senator John McCain and Governor Mitt Romney are proposing major reforms in the health care system that would achieve the same objective: transferring the power and control over health care dollars to individuals and families. Both would promote portability of health coverage for individuals and families. To achieve this, both men would make major changes in the federal tax treatment of health insurance.
In the case of Senator McCain, the major tax change would be the creation of a universal health care tax credit that would be available to every citizen. This would equalize the tax treatment of health insurance and make health insurance more affordable for millions of Americans. In the case of Governor Romney, the change would be in the form of a universal tax deduction for health care expenses. Also both candidates would pursue health insurance market reforms. In the case of Senator McCain, he would create a national health insurance market, where individuals and families would be able to buy health insurance across state lines.
In the case of Governor Romney, the heavy lifting on health insurance market reform would be left to the states, though the Governor would also redirect existing federal funding to the states to help states to expand coverage to low income individuals. Romney’s major objective is to encourage the creation of new state insurance markets where individuals and families would be able to purchase health insurance, own their policies like other types of insurance policies, and take their coverage from job to job without a tax or regulatory penalty.