John McCain continues his general-election campaign with another ad contrasting himself with the Democrats on health care, although passively. He never mentions either Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton in the ad, which is more tailored to television than his recent efforts. It runs 60 seconds and consists mostly of McCain speaking about the free-market principles he hopes to use to make health care more affordable while maintaining the high quality of American medicine:

This is smart politics; McCain wants to be seen as presidential, while the two Democrats diminish themselves in a bitter primary fight. Is health care a sexy enough topic to keep the public’s attention, especially in the middle of the Democratic scrap? Perhaps not, but it does at least build a foundation for the general election.

This works as far as policy-based ads can. For those well-versed in the issue, the subtext is that he opposes government management of health-care delivery, which contrasts with the plans for both Democratic candidates. He wants to use tax rebates to provide incentives for uninsured Americans to buy insurance and start using wellness clinics to address issues before they require emergency-room visits.

The campaign will be rolling out a broader, more detailed policy this week, starting with appearances this morning. He will speak in Tampa, and will address potential criticisms of his plan:

These reforms will take time, and critics argue that when my proposed tax credit becomes available it would encourage people to purchase health insurance on the current individual market, while significant weaknesses in the market remain. They worry that Americans with pre-existing conditions could still be denied insurance. Congress took the important step of providing some protection against the exclusion of pre-existing conditions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in 1996. I supported that legislation, and nothing in my reforms will change the fact that if you remain employed and insured you will build protection against the cost of treating any pre-existing condition.

Even so, those without prior group coverage and those with pre-existing conditions do have the most difficulty on the individual market, and we need to make sure they get the high-quality coverage they need. I will work tirelessly to address the problem. But I won’t create another entitlement program that Washington will let get out of control. Nor will I saddle states with another unfunded mandate. The states have been very active in experimenting with ways to cover the “uninsurables.” The State of North Carolina, for example, has an agreement with Blue Cross to act as insurer of “last resort.” Over thirty states have some form of “high-risk” pool, and over twenty states have plans that limit premiums charged to people suffering an illness and who have been denied insurance.

Later today, we’ll talk with McCain’s campaign about health-care policy in a conference call.