October 9th, 2008
03:02 PM ET
13 years ago

Fact Check: The potential impact of McCain's health care plan

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/09/art.mac1009.ap.jpg caption="Sen. Obama claims Sen. McCain's health care plan would cause 20 million workers to lose their employer-provided health insurance. Get the facts!"]
The Statement: During a campaign speech Wednesday, October 8, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama criticized Republican opponent Sen. John McCain's health care plan. "Senator McCain didn't tell us about the studies that say his plan would cause 20 million Americans to lose their health insurance from their employer," Obama said.

Get the facts!

The Facts: Obama is referring to one of the key elements of McCain's health care plan. McCain says his plan would eliminate the existing tax exemption for insurance premiums that are paid through employers. But in a major shift in how most Americans are covered, he would replace it with a health-insurance tax credit of $2,500 for individuals or $5,000 for families. The idea is that this money would allow workers to seek out and buy their own insurance.

"Eliminating the tax exclusion would greatly reduce the number of people who obtain health insurance through their employers," according to an analysis of McCain's plan by four professors from Columbia University, Harvard, Purdue and the University of Michigan, published on the Web site of the policy journal "Health Affairs." The analysis predicts "many employers would be quick to drop health benefits" because of such a change. It estimates that about 20 million people would lose their health coverage at work under the plan. But it says roughly that same number would enroll in "nongroup" coverage.

The McCain campaign says that "families will be able to choose the insurance provider that suits them best and the money would be sent directly to the insurance provider." The "Health Affairs" study says people likely would be able to find some nongroup coverage for less than they pay through their employers, but that this often would be because those plans offer less

The Verdict: True, but incomplete. While the number of people analysts predict would lose coverage through their jobs is in line with the number Obama uses, most of those workers would not become uninsured under McCain's plan - they'd just get their health insurance in a different way.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • Health care • John McCain
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