New McCain ad on health care: Concise

posted at 9:49 am on April 29, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

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.

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Here’s the winning debate answer on health care (again):

Even if you agree that universal health care is a goal; our government has a 3 trillion dollar budget. It is estimated that about 1 trillion of that is wasted in bureaucracy and administrative costs. Until Washington gets its current house in order; adding more responsibility to it, when it clearly cannot handle what it already does, is not possible.


lorien1973 on April 29, 2008 at 9:54 AM

He has to talk about Health Care because the price is really getting out of reach for many middle class folks.

People who abhor the idea of Universal Health Care are looking for an answer to their own problems with it.

The next Potus will either give us Universal Health Care or a way to let the market make it cheaper for people to buy their own.

EJDolbow on April 29, 2008 at 10:00 AM

A smart ad and effectively placed since domestic issues will probably be the determinant in the general election.

McCain has the ability to present effective solutions that credit health-care and insurance consumers with the liberty to make wise choices for themselves.

onlineanalyst on April 29, 2008 at 10:00 AM


You are a thoughtful and generous man and a great blogger, but your recent analyses of McCain are so one-sided that they approach being non-credible. You never discuss his manifold blunders, and yesterday you went so far as to pretty much put words in his mouth when you talked about him uniting Americans around the concepts of freedom and liberty. I have never heard him do that, and his sponsorship of campaign finance reform disputes the notion entirely.

Cut it out with the McCain Kool-Aid, already.

P.S. If McCain wants to appear presidential, he might start by discontinuing the practice of telling other people — from his own party leadership to Barack Obama — that they are out of touch with reality.

BigD on April 29, 2008 at 10:02 AM

Will the $5,000 tax credit be applicable only to health insurance? i.e. I don’t want to hear someone whining about not having coverage because they spent the five grand on a cruise.

Also, will McCain insist on matching budget cuts to prevent a budget deficit caused by this tax credit, as he did when voting against Bush’s tax cuts several years ago? It’s about fiscal responsibility, not being a Maverick, right?

trubble on April 29, 2008 at 10:02 AM

That ad is on target, of course the libs are now scrambling to define McCain as being cold hearted and willing to let people suffer so medical companies and reap profits…but they will lose their argument. Hillary has already done that years ago, people don’t want the Gov to take over health care.

right2bright on April 29, 2008 at 10:05 AM

That’s a good ad.

We need more “Wal Mart” style walk in clinics, so people in the middle class or below won’t hesitate to seek medical help when they have a problem. Real problems develop when things are ignored. Strep becomes scarlet fever then rheumatic fever.

We can staff these clinics with PA and hospital interns.

Labamigo on April 29, 2008 at 10:06 AM

Good ad. Good start for defining himself apart from RINO. But the truth is in the details of which we are yet ignorant; so time will tell. Go for the core of his argument, Captain. Pin McCain to non-Progressive agenda in dialogue. Good luck getting past the frosting on this campaign cake.

Johnny is dangling carrots…

Is McCain’s $5K one time only,
or annual tax deduction/refund?

maverick muse on April 29, 2008 at 10:15 AM

We need more “Wal Mart” style walk in clinics, so people in the middle class or below won’t hesitate to seek medical help when they have a problem. Real problems develop when things are ignored. Strep becomes scarlet fever then rheumatic fever.

We can staff these clinics with PA and hospital interns.

Labamigo on April 29, 2008 at 10:06 AM

Well, I don’t agree with that. Walk-in clinics staffed by mid-levels cannot provide the continuity of care that a regular primary-care physician can, because the PCP knows your history, medications, etc.

I was disappointed to see that Sen. McCain did not even mention Health Savings Accounts in the ad. Nor essential tools, like divorcing health insurance from employment. But I’ll wait until his campaign releases more details before criticizing further—for which this forum, which encourages one-liners and discourages discussion, is ill-equipped anyway.

MrLynn on April 29, 2008 at 10:19 AM

Staying on issues and looking presidential.

I hope you get afterplay and a cigarette for that one.

It will be easy for McCain to socialize medicine because Republicans out of blind loyalty as exemplified here will follow him over the cliff ala the Bush prescription drug program.

The bonus for McCain is that it will really piss off conservatives.

Valiant on April 29, 2008 at 10:20 AM

McCain does need to lock in his key domestic policy position before the Hillary-Obama contest is decided, as much due to the candidate’s own habit of talking-before-thinking when dealing with the media. Get your ideas for health care or reducing energy costs down pat now, while the focus is on the Democratic battle, and it’s less likely you’re going to be unprepared come the late summer and fall, and say something stupid when confronted by a liberal questioner trying to trick you into supporting the Democrats’ positions on universal health care or the windfall profits tax by playing on your love of being loved by the media.

jon1979 on April 29, 2008 at 10:26 AM

JENNIFER RUBIN: McCain’s soft offensive against Obama:

While Obama was fending off stories about his flag pin and his wife’s comment that she had never been proud of America, McCain was reveling in nostalgia over his family’s military service and the sacrifices he made in service of “a cause greater than [himself].”

While Obama deals with question after question about his spotlight-dwelling mentor Reverend Wright, McCain introduced us to his salt-of-the-earth English teacher who, McCain says, influenced his character and values. The implicit message is that the other guy has Wright’s invective and McCain has Mr. Ravenel’s honor code.

As Obama suffered defeat in Pennsylvania, losing many rural areas by thirty points, where was McCain? In Inez, Kentucky, extolling the virtues of coal miners, and discussing Obama’s “bitter” comments in front of a cheering crowd heavy with religious, gun owners.

The tours may be the best solution for the dilemma that plagues the McCain campaign: they desperately want to refight the culture wars but have a candidate who doesn’t want to get his hands dirty. The tours provide him with venue after venue to make the arguments about character and values which will form a key portion of his campaign message.

And while it gets McCain plenty of local TV in key areas, it keeps his national-media profile low so as not to distract from the Democrats’ self-inflicted wounds.

posted at 08:15 AM by Glenn Reynolds

funky chicken on April 29, 2008 at 10:33 AM

I have a high-option HSA health plan. My premiums are only $40 a month! I have in the last year spent about $1500 out of my own pocket on health care, and that included an ER visit and eventual surgery for a knee injury. I could get reimbursed from my HSA for all of it, but I choose not to so my HSA will grow and be available if I have a really big medical expense. I could have stayed with the “less risky” fee-for-service plan but the premiums were $400 a month. I have concluded that ordinary health insurance is a ripoff. Health savings accounts are the way to go.

rockmom on April 29, 2008 at 10:33 AM

trubble on April 29, 2008 at 10:02 AM

As POTUS, he will submit what he wants within x amount of dollars, from there it is up to the Senate and Congress to get him the bill to sign or veto.

Pam on April 29, 2008 at 10:39 AM

As POTUS, he will submit what he wants within x amount of dollars, from there it is up to the Senate and Congress to get him the bill to sign or veto.

I understand (at least broadly) the mechanics of appropriations. I just want to know if he wants to offset his tax cuts with spending cuts as much as he did with Bush’s tax cuts. I stongly suspect that he voted against the Bush tax cuts out of spite and is hiding behind fiscal responsibility.

trubble on April 29, 2008 at 10:43 AM

The key to lowering health care costs is to get the government out of it. Currently every state has different requirements for health care policies and as a result only a limited number of health care providers sell policies in each state. Get rid of this, allow a national set of standards, and let every insurance company provide Plan A, B, C & D on a national level. Then and only then will free market lower costs.

trs on April 29, 2008 at 10:43 AM

TRS … dittos, including McLame

tarpon on April 29, 2008 at 10:49 AM

That ad reminds me of a lame community college or DeVry commercial, complete with the cheesy muzak. And McCain sounded sick to boot.

amkun on April 29, 2008 at 10:52 AM

Yes! This is good. Still too vague obviously but a good first step. People are worried about healthcare, a lot. Republicans need concrete solutions not just “OMFG SOCIALIZED HEALTHCARE WHAT R U A COMMIE LOL”

Dash on April 29, 2008 at 10:56 AM

Well, I don’t agree with that. Walk-in clinics staffed by mid-levels cannot provide the continuity of care that a regular primary-care physician can, because the PCP knows your history, medications, etc.

MrLynn on April 29, 2008 at 10:19 AM

What prevents you from using a walk-in clinic as a primary-care physician? This is an especially good solution for the young, who don’t need much health care, and all others who don’t have chronic health problems.

We used to have clinics like these, run by hospitals in shopping malls here: they got shut down by Federal and State rules and regulations which interfered with their operation and required service give-aways. So now instead of going in for a $40 office visit (total cost to everyone), you can now get the same thing in an emergency room for $1000.

When proposed “solutions” only deal with “insurance” and ignore the practical problems of delivering health care services without enslaving the provider, they are not really solutions: they only rearrange the deck chairs in an attempt to pawn costs off on someone else. Most of the schemes on the table actually increase costs: this makes the problem worse.

landlines on April 29, 2008 at 11:00 AM

The free market is already at work!

Why do think that grocery stores, Wal-Mart, CVS, etc. are offering $4 prescriptions? Competition! Why are Minute Clinics popping up in Wal-Mart, CVS, etc.? Competition! They are cheaper, faster and have better hours than a primary care physician. I recently went to one after work for a stye (in my eye!). I waited for less than 15 minutes and received my medication very shortly. Yes. I do have health insurance from a large university.

Why does health care cost so much? It’s the insurance companies, stupid! The red tape and run-around in dealing with them wastes time and money. They tell you what doctors are in the network, what medications are covered/not covered, how much they will pay for an office visit, etc. It’s the bureaucracy associated with the health insurance companies. It’s also our litigious society (people filing lawsuits like they’re eating Tic-Tacs). Therefore we need tort reform. It’s also government regulations, too. Don’t heap all of the blame on big pharma. Do you know how much it costs to bring a new drug to the market? When you pay for that drug, you are paying for the following: labor to do the initial research to discover the drug, materials to produce the drug, and all of the studies (along with repetition) mandated by the government to prove safety and efficacy. All of this can be shot to hell if one “T” is not crossed and one “I” is not dotted.

Another question: If a doctor/physician assistant/nurse practitioner can write a prescription, why do I have to go to a drugstore, grocery store, Wal-Mart, etc. to get it filled? Why can’t the doctor also run a pharmacy out of his/her office?

I favor a system where insurance companies would only offer policies to cover major medical and chronic conditions (surgery, cancer treatment, physical therapy….) along with tax incentives that the individual will use to cover their own routine care. I would to walk into a doctor’s office that had a marquee on the wall outlining services and prices. For example, “Office Visits MD = $20. Office Visits PA = $15. Cold/Flu = Office Visit + $10. Broken arm = Office Visit + $50. Rash = Office Visit + $5.” You get the point. We need to wrestle control away from government and away from insurance companies and get it back in the hands of the individual.

Problem with all I have written: Because of government education, we have too many stupid people living among us for our own good. Too many tax takers instead of tax payers.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on April 29, 2008 at 11:16 AM

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on April 29, 2008 at 11:16 AM

Great points! Also there are some grocery stores that offer FREE oral antibiotics. Free market at work baby!

Weight of Glory on April 29, 2008 at 11:21 AM

He sounds nasally. Did he have a cold while doing this ad?

HYTEAndy on April 29, 2008 at 11:25 AM

those well-versed in the issue

That’s the problem as I see it. McCain is being honest, the Dems are not and they are promising the farm (free everything, for everybody.) Many, many will buy the lie!

abinitioadinfinitum on April 29, 2008 at 11:34 AM

What I don’t like about the current Health Savings Accounts (or at least the ones I have seen offered) is that a person loses any leftover money if it is not used within the year. It’s one thing to buy insurance against a medical emergency, but I don’t like betting that someone in my family will be sick this year, and losing money if we all stay healthy!

The Health Savings Accounts need to be structured so that unused money can be “rolled over”, or else simply not have a time limit for its use. In this way, people could save money for years if they stay healthy, and have a good-sized nest egg for a major illness.

As for McCain’s $5,000 tax credit, it sounds like a good idea on the surface, if it only applies for purchase of health insurance, and/or employee contributions to employer-sponsored health insurance. It would need to be combined with state-to-state portability of health insurance programs, so that a large insurance company can’t get a monopoly on a state, and caps on malpractice awards, so that doctors can’t be gouged by greedy trial lawyers (that means you, John Edwards!), which would drive down the cost of malpractice insurance, and doctors would eventually pass on the savings to patients.

Steve Z on April 29, 2008 at 11:35 AM

Steve, that sounds more like one of those cafeteria plans and not a health savings account. A HSA does allow you to roll the money over. I have looked at HSA since our group family policy now costs $1500 a month. The HSA through our group is $1000 a month, $10,000 deduct. per person and 50% of the first $30,000. As long as I can afford it I will stick with the standard PPO policy we have.

bopbottle on April 29, 2008 at 11:57 AM

I have concluded that ordinary health insurance is a ripoff. Health savings accounts are the way to go.

rockmom on April 29, 2008 at 10:33 AM

You do realize that Health Savings Accounts are actually ordinary health insurance. . . actually the MOST ordinary health insurance.

And actually the Health Savings Accounts amount to the ‘$5000 tax credit’ that McCain is proposing as revolutionary.

I agree that HSA’s are the way to go. I actually offer a variety of them. Insurance companies have lowered the costs, and you get to put money in the savings account and take it off your taxes like an IRA.

The problem is what good is a tax credit to a family who isn’t paying taxes anyway (or pays less than $5000)? He’d be better off recommending people take advantage of HSA’s than proposing a ‘new’ tax credit.

And it still doesn’t address the fundamental problem with health insurance in that everybody can’t get it. Elizabeth Edwards was right in her assessment about that. Insurance companies don’t want sick people. Something needs to be done in terms of a ‘risk pool’ for ineligible people.

If John McCain ever decides to stop railing on NC and actually looks at what is going on in health care here, he could actually use the most recent risk pool legislation passed last year as a benchmark moving in that direction. But hey, what do I know? I’m just a racist who thinks Obama shows poor judgment by staying in Wright’s church for 20 years. Who needs anything from NC, right Johnny Mac?

ThackerAgency on April 29, 2008 at 12:02 PM

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on April 29, 2008 at 11:16 AM is pretty much on the money:

We have to get the third parties (insurance companies, government) out of routine medical care. Insurance is for catastrophes. You don’t expect your plumber to bill your homeowner’s insurance if he comes to fix a leaking faucet. You don’t expect your auto insurance to cover routine brake jobs.

It’s a long, long discussion, but getting the third parties out is the first principle. HSAs can do that pretty well. Removing tax deductibility of employee health insurance for businesses will help, too (that will divorce health insurance from employment).

Steve Z, HSAs are long-term, tax-free investment accounts, like IRAs.

MrLynn on April 29, 2008 at 12:09 PM

MrLynn on April 29, 2008 at 12:09 PM

You do mean getting the third parties out of routine care and not hospital and surgery negotiations. Insurance companies play a vital role in keeping those costs in check. I’m not an apologist for insurance companies as I’ve been done as wrong by insurance companies as everyone. If they operated on a highly regulated non-profit model, that would fix a lot of the problems of greed in insurance. . . and it would bridge the gap between completely public and completely private.

But mostly I agree with you.

ThackerAgency on April 29, 2008 at 12:19 PM

Insurance is just socialism lite. You take money from all to payout a few, which may be acceptable for major medical, but it just adds cost to regular visits. When our company was switching insurance companies they had someone come in to explain the new plans. I’m not sure if he meant to let us know, but he said on group plans, they want to take in 50% more than they pay out. Plus the doctors office needs to hire extra people just to deal with the insurance companies. You combine that with the cost of malpractice insurance and government regulation and it’s no wonder people can’t afford to go to the doctor. like several people above have stated, we need to get third parties out and let competition happen at the hospital and doctor levels to keep costs down.

Corsair on April 29, 2008 at 1:55 PM

The quickest way to lower Medical would be to pass tort reform, of course, the Washington elite will never do that.

Musn’t interfere with John Edwards next billion

Snake307 on April 29, 2008 at 2:42 PM

ThackerAgency on April 29, 2008 at 12:19 PM

Yes, you’ll always need insurance for very expensive and catastrophic medicine. But you don’t need it for sprained ankles, sore throats, and tick bites.

That’s not to say that if people wanted to buy a comprehensive, pre-paid health plan, which included insurance, they couldn’t do so. It should be a personal option, in a free market.

MrLynn on April 29, 2008 at 5:55 PM

McCain look presidential?

Uh… huh… :-|

Jockolantern on April 30, 2008 at 3:59 AM