In the midst of what has been quite a rollercoaster of a week, I was able to participate in a press call with the McCain campaign that focused on his healthcare proposals. Senior policy advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina answered questions from journalists and bloggers about his policies, which provide an interesting alternative to the talk of universal healthcare dominating the Democratic contest.
There are plenty of economic and political analyses of the McCain healthcare platform out there, so what I’m attempting to do is look at the key policies of the candidates that resonate most with my perspective: someone with multiple chronic conditions whose problem isn’t lack of insurance per se, but lack of confidence in my insurance and lack of the comprehensive coverage I used to have.
Overall, I like a lot of the central themes of the McCain campaign: we have great technology and innovation so the problem isn’t as much about quality as it is affordability of that care; patients should have more control over their own care and their choice in doctors; healthcare should focus on treatments and outcomes, not tests and procedures; and lastly, that prevention is key (no surprise there).
I can’t argue with any of those points. As always, I’m interested in the “theory into practice” aspect of things. (Who knew the basic distinction so critical in my teaching composition seminar would turn up so often in my health blogging?)
Specifically, the idea of portable health insurance that employees can take from job to job is quite appealing. Health insurance is an inordinately large deal-breaker in potential job opportunities in our world. Not being tied to a job for its health insurance or tied to sub-par health insurance because of the job that comes with it is certainly a refreshing option.
The ability to purchase health insurance outside of employer-sponsored plans through a $5000 tax credit (that this free market competition will drive down costs is a driving force of this policy) also sounds promising in theory. In practice, I worry where this leaves someone with pre-existing serious medical conditions. If I’m to go out into the national market and try to buy a plan, will the “safety net” in place for patients like me actually catch me?
Other aspects of his platform I gravitated to include publishing doctor fees and patient ratings on Internet to weed out the worst providers; encouraging telemedicine; and providing incentives for healthy lifestyle choices, though in reality I’m curious as to how this would actually play out. His team was clear that these would be incentives, not mandates, but in the push for outcome-based medicine, would that line get blurry?
One thing I’d like to know more about is how his push for pharmaceutical reimportation would impact research and innovation for orphan diseases.
In sum, McCain’s policies are an interesting alternative to universal health care—about as different as you could get—and give me a lot to think about. In coming weeks, stay tuned for a closer look at the Democrats' policies, too—we’re equal opportunity here at A Chronic Dose when it comes to evaluating healthcare platforms. In the interim, for a nonpartisan look at the different candidates’ healthcare policies, check out the Partnership to Fight Chronic Diesase.