Voters Send Mixed Messages on Health Care

Michael Tanner on polls about health care and the divergent proposals , concluding, “as November approaches, voters will reach a fork in the road, and as Yogi Berra says, ‘they’ll take it.'”

According to Gallup, roughly 81 percent of voters support a requirement that employers provide health insurance to their workers — a proposal supported by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. Yet 86 percent want to do away with employment as a prerequisite for health insurance, along the lines of a proposal by Republican nominee John McCain. Two-thirds also agree with McCain’s call for a health care tax credit, but 77 percent agree with Obama that we should increase subsidies for low-income Americans to help buy insurance, and 54 percent would repeal the Bush tax cuts to do it.

Voters are saying that almost anything is better than the status quo. …

Obama would significantly increase regulation of the insurance industry, establishing a standard minimum benefits package, requiring insurers to accept all applicants regardless of their health, and prohibiting risk-rating of insurance premiums. This would dramatically increase the cost of insurance for the young and healthy. Obama would also offer a variety of new and expanded subsidies to middle- and low-income Americans.

In contrast, McCain emphasizes consumer choice and greater competition in the health care industry. He would replace our current system with one under which the tax exclusion for employer-provided insurance became a refundable tax credit for individuals, which they could use to purchase plans of their own choosing. McCain would sharply deregulate the insurance industry to increase competition, and attempt to shift the way health care is financed from episodic care (X number of trips to the doctor’s office) to outcome-based criteria (the patient is cured).