John McCain: Never a Day Without Government Health Insurance

Oie_399px_john_mccain_mackinac_islaPresumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) emphasizes freedom, personal choice
and responsibility when promoting his plan to reform Americas health care system. Hes not calling for an incremental approach but "nothing short of a complete reform of the culture of our health system and the way we pay for it will suffice."

This post isn’t a play-by-play of McCain’s health care proposal.

Visit his Web site to read those talking points. Or read Bob Laszewski’s detailed analysis on THCB.

This is an examination of his biography to point out that the man who wants to reduce state-regulated health insurance and hard-won consumer protections has never spent a day of his life outside the cozy blankets of publicy-sponsored government health coverage.

John Sidney McCain III was born in the Panama Canal Zone on Aug. 29, 1936 while his father was a Navy admiral. From this birth and throughout his childhood, Navy physicians cared for McCain.

After high school, McCain enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy, where the naval health care continued until he retired from the Navy in 1981. (Granted, he endured immense hardships during the 5.5 years he spent as a war prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam.)

After his naval retirement, he went straight to the U.S. House of Representatives after winning the 1982 election for Arizona’s 1st congressional district. After serving two terms, he was elected to the Senate in 1986, where he has been ever since. Throughout that time, he qualified for the generous Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. On his 65th birthday in 2001, McCain qualified for Medicare.

To be fair, Sen. Hillary Clinton has spent all but two of the last 30 years covered by government-sponsored health programs. But she says more people should have similar coverage.

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32 replies »

  1. I left my job and bought an individual policy.
    The last policy I had I cancelled. After I read the
    policy I realized it was a scam
    It cost about $400 a month.
    The deductable was $5000 per year per Illness.(per Illness)
    The maximum benefit was $25000 with no out of pocket limit.
    I had to pay all expences out of pocket up to $5000 per illnes
    before it would pay anything.
    Individual policies seem to cost more and give less benefit
    than group plans.
    If Mccain thinks sending people out to buy individual policies
    is the answer he really is retarded.
    Insuring large groups of people seems to be more cost effective.
    Thats what would seem logical.
    It’s too bad that this is the best this county can do for
    presidential candidates.
    By trying to force his amnesty bill to pass against the will
    of the people it shows doesn’t understand that the U.S. is
    supposed to be a democracy with govt’by consent of the people.
    I think presidential candidates should have be evaluated
    for mental competence to qualify as a candidate.
    Mccain would probably be disqualified .
    His 5 years in the POW camp did serious psycological damage.

  2. Bart wrote: “If the VA is so great — why did the WaPo win the Pulitzer for its series on Walter Reed?”
    Bart doesn’t know much about anything as far as I can tell. Walter Reed isn’t a VA hospital.

  3. It is amazing how easily we can be side-tracked by a discussion of the merits, or lack thereof, of Mr. McCain’s past health care providers, even to the point of personal vitriol. What’s important is the program ideas proposed by the candidates. Given the complex nature of delivering health care in this country and the disastorous implications of over-simplified, one- size-fits-all solutions, as a minimum, we must at least preserve what we have, keep cost from rising arbitrarily and begin to shift the payment decision back to the doctor/patient interaction where a reasonable discussion of the needs/benefits of proposed healthcare solutions can be identified. A gradual reduction in cost (a decrease in reqiured paperwork alone would be enormous) would occur along with an increase in the quality of the care due to local market forces and competition. In order for this to occur, we also need to increase the supply-side of the equation by increasing the number of people able to deliver healthcare services. (This shortage is also one of the primary reasons why current costs are resistant to reduction.) We must re-focus on delivering healthcare to the patient who really needs the help!

  4. Jeeez, who is this Bart character, and why is he taking up half of your page with vitriolic posts? I just came to this site to read about health care – I don’t want to deal with all these hysterics. Is there any way we can filter these out these obnoxious posts?
    Unfortunately, whether you like it or not, candidates’ personal lives have become fair game in this election. So if you support campaign finance reform…don’t take money from lobbyists. If you support people paying taxes…don’t hide your tax returns. If you support completely privatized health insurance…don’t get yours from a “large, idiotic bureaucracy”. If McCain were following his ideology to a T, he would be advocating to completely disband the VA system and let vets buy their own insurance.
    When do we get back to the actual debate? Because neither a 100% government-run nor a 100% privatized model where everyone buys their own plan will work. What we need is a hybrid approach in which everyone gets a certain basic level of health-care – yearly check-ups with an NP, mammograms for women over 50, heart medication &c – and a market/insurance system exists for the more complicated, involved types of care.
    Reforming our handouts to Pharma (i.e. Part D) would also be a positive step toward cutting government dole-outs and saving us a lot of money – as would allowing the government to negotiate prescription drug prices. Abolishing pharmaceutical companies is not really a valid option, but we need to think creatively about some checks-and-balances on their out-of-control prices.

    To all the Ivory Tower-wannabe’s and BHO supporters needling the certified POW for being a Navy brat (it was his choice, right?) and career military —
    If the VA is so great — why did the WaPo win the Pulitzer for its series on Walter Reed?
    Oh. You don’t let facts get in the way of the sermon. Sorry.

  6. “Given how FUBAR U.S. health care is (correlated to the number of Democrats involved with health care?)”
    Maybe you could give us your “correlation” research?
    “– it just means waste by government workers or waste by private-sector workers. I’d rather have the latter, because money is wasted at a slower rate.”
    Care to separate the numbers for us.

    ” .. I’m just saying the present drug patent system is not working for the general welfare as proscribed by our constitution ..”
    I know pharms researchers. And I know that in the 0.0000000001% probability that any of the ridiculous Socialist/Democrat/Communist ideas proposed here were ever implemented, they would immediately move AWAY from the U.S. and take their chances with Putin or the Chi-Coms.
    Better to be with people who know they are thieves — than those who refuse to admit it.

  8. ” .. I wonder where vets would get their health coverage without the VA, the private sector maybe?”
    What those who post here without first-hand experience with reality FAIL to understand about the U.S. Constitution —
    The Constitution specifically and directly calls for a mutual defense. That means a military. It does NOT mean unionized hospital workers who want to dictate to the public what their working conditions will be. That is, “give us the money and shut up.”
    As to military health care:
    Given how FUBAR U.S. health care is (correlated to the number of Democrats involved with health care?) — it just means waste by government workers or waste by private-sector workers. I’d rather have the latter, because money is wasted at a slower rate.

  9. “Would you begrudge an injured factory worker disability coverage as you seem to imply McCain (and, by extension, all wounded veterans) does not merit government-paid treatment for his “workplace- related” injuries?”
    Actually adam vets get lifetime medical treatment for all their health needs, even the ones not “workplace related”. VA seems to be busy even though some like to call it a failed program. I wonder where vets would get their health coverage without the VA, the private sector maybe?

  10. ” .. This blog has transformed itself from reasonably sane to overtly political ..”
    Excuse me — this blog belongs to the Socialists and Democrats. Period.
    ” .. Would you begrudge an injured factory worker disability coverage ..”
    Excuse me, again — thanks to the tax-and-spend failures of the Democrats — tens of millions of factory jobs have been lost. What factory jobs?
    Contrary to those with only a theoretical knowledge of working — no country’s health care system is perfect. What is interesting is how the European systems are beginning to emulate the U.S. Why?

  11. “And every researcher in pharms — having seen their property stolen by thugs — would leave and never return.”
    Jeez, Bart, take your medicine and calm down.
    Every scientist doing research for pharma corporations get their work stolen NOW by the corporate thugs they work for (compared to what they would earn if the patent was held individually by the scientists themselves). If such scientists worked instead for the public sector then at least the public could pay them higher salaries then they get now plus bonuses when they have a breakthrough. Research would increase…NOT go to zero. Of course, private companies would still be free to do their own research and claim the government offerred breakthrough incentives (why we the people could even offer them the largess of re-imbursing them their research costs). Of course such a change would have a phase-in period and if the government wanted to purchase private research facilities currently owned by pharma corps now that could be arranged at suitable prices, etc. Would some big pharma companies significantly scale down in order to compete in the free market generic drug market, sure…but that would be a GOOD thing!
    I’m just saying the present drug patent system is not working for the general welfare as proscribed by our constitution.
    If conservatives care anything about preserving our individual freedoms and constitutional form of government then they better wake up now and do away with corporate welfare and stop their hypocritical knee-jerk defense of every criticism of the conservative nanny state as communistic. Our country is being bled dry by blood-sucking conservative nanny-staters and their unfettered greed is destroying our country both politically and economically.

  12. This blog has transformed itself from reasonably sane to overtly political. Would you begrudge an injured factory worker disability coverage as you seem to imply McCain (and, by extension, all wounded veterans) does not merit government-paid treatment for his “workplace- related” injuries?
    For the left, no argument is too tendentious.

    ” .. Consumers would then be saving from both lower taxes and much lower drug prices (sic)”
    And every researcher in pharms — having seen their property stolen by thugs — would leave and never return.
    No more new pharms. Zero. Zilch. Nada. 0, 0, 0.
    You so smart. Stalin and Mao would be proud. Congratulations.

  14. Bart, I don’t smoke, but you might want to stop drinking the kool-aid. Then you might just be able to do some creative thinking.
    I highly recommend this book:
    Here’s an excerpt which has been edited for length (had footnotes, etc. removed by me):
    The government is not obligated to award patent and copyright protection;
    it only makes sense if these are the best ways to promote innovation and
    creativity. In fact, this is exactly how the U.S. constitution discusses patents and
    copyrights. They are not listed as rights in the Bill of Rights, like freedom of
    speech or the free exercise of religion; patents and copyrights are implicitly
    referred to in Article 1, Section 8, where the Constitution lists the powers of
    Congress. The Constitution says, “To promote the progress of science and
    useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive
    right to their respective writings and discoveries.” The Constitution does not
    say that Congress must issue copyrights or patents, it simply has the power to
    do so, as a means “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.” If
    Congress determines that there are more effective ways to promote innovation
    and creativity then it is not obligated to allow copyrights or patents, just as it is
    not obligated to levy taxes, if it determines that the country does not need the
    Patent-protected brand drugs sell for more than three times the price of generic drugs that sell in a free market. This means that the country could save approximately $140 billion a year on its $220 billion annual bill for prescription drugs if the government did not provide patent protection and drugs were instead sold in a competitive market. According to the pharmaceutical industry, it spent $41.1 billion on research in the United States in 2004. According to the Food and Drug Administration, approximately two thirds of all new drugs fall into the copycat category. This means instead of getting $40 billion in research on breakthrough drugs for the $140 billion that patents add to drug costs, we are only getting about $17 billion. In other words, we spend more than $8 in higher
    drug prices for every dollar that the industry spends researching breakthrough
    The federal government already spends more than $30 billion a year supporting bio-medical research, primarily through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This spending has enjoyed widespread political support, especially from the
    pharmaceutical industry, which has vigorously pushed for increased spending
    over the last two decades. (Under the current system, NIH research is
    effectively a subsidy to the pharmaceutical industry.)
    Most NIH funding supports basic research, but public money could be
    redirected towards the development and testing of new drugs. The government
    could double what it currently spends on research. This money should be
    enough to replace the industry’s patent supported research, since it wouldn’t be
    wasted on copycat research or be used to buy political influence or to pay
    kickbacks to doctors for prescribing drugs. The research funded by the
    government would be made fully public upon completion and all patents based
    on publicly funded research would be placed in the public domain, so that all
    new drugs could be produced as generics in a competitive market.
    To ensure that researchers have substantial incentives to do important
    work, it is possible to establish a substantial prize fund (e.g. $500 million a year)
    that could be used to give researchers who achieve extraordinary breakthroughs
    substantial rewards that would be in addition to their ordinary salaries. Many
    researchers could receive awards in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars
    for important discoveries. For truly extraordinary breakthroughs, researchers
    could receive prizes in the millions of dollars, or even tens of millions, if their
    work leads to drugs that save or extend the lives of a large number of people.
    This alternative to patent-financed drug research would in some respects
    require a smaller role for the government in the drug development process than
    the patent system. For example, the government would not have to
    micromanage the conduct of research by deciding when a drug, or even a
    research process, has infringed on another company’s patent. It also would not
    have to arrest people for buying and selling drugs, as can be the case now when
    a person buys pills in a transaction that the patent holder claims it did not
    This alternative system would likely also save consumers and even the
    government a substantial amount of money. CMS projects that the United States will spend $450 billion on drugs in 2015.13 If these drugs were all available at generic prices, the cost would be approximately 70 percent less, a savings of $310 billion. CMS projects
    that the government will be spending $190 billion on prescription drugs in
    2015. If it could save 70 percent on its prescription drug costs, this would
    amount to $130 billion in 2015. The government would still be ahead even if it
    will be spending $50 billion a year in prescription drug research at that point.
    Consumers would then be saving from both lower taxes and much lower drug

    Well, gee, using Sara’s odd thinking ..
    Given non-government workers appear to be subsidizing the “better” health care systems of government workers (and their ward-bosses) .. until this is resolved .. let Ritchie Daley and his pals have to live with the health care play of employees at CNA and Bankers’ Life.
    Fair is fair, right, Sara?

  16. OH, REALLY?
    ” .. 2) Remove patents for drugs ..”
    Excellent. Who’s gonna hold a gun to the heads of Harvard MD/PhDs to create the next generation of pharms? Given the 10-year work output of their mentors has just been STOLEN?
    What genius! So easy! Why didn’t I think of that!
    Oh .. Fidel’s already gone there? Sorry ..
    Hey — go after Silicon Valley next!
    Forget Health Care 2.0. Just taken away their patent-property rights!
    Yeah! Medicine for the people’s! Let the U.S. be as backward as Cuba and North Korea!
    Great job! Groovy! Toke down, baby!

    ” .. at least Hussein’s (Obama)plan put s (sic) some pressure on the system to start discussing real change ..”
    That’s been going on for 50 years.
    Barack Hussein Obama needs Andy Stern, SEIU, and the Harvard MD/JD phony-fakers to win.
    To think otherwise, to think he would cross them, is absurd and borderline-delusional.
    “Hi. I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.” Right — in a pig’s eye.

  18. Sidney’s (McCain) plan is no plan, while at least Hussein’s (Obama)plan put s some pressure on the system to start discussing real change. I never insinuated that any candidates’ current proposal included opening an international healthcare worker free market. All I did was point out the hypocrisy of conservatives who wail on and on about how our current economic policies can’t be changed because only the “free market” works and any change would inhibit the “free market”. We live in a conservative nanny state that funnels dollars to the top of our social economic pyramid to the detriment of the bottom, but those at the top who control the system instantly label “insane” anyone who suggests change. For example, nobody is forced to incorporate and thus pay that dreaded “double taxation” the conservative corporate nanny-staters always complain about — partnerships can conduct business just fine. Yet, for perceived PUBLIC interests corporations are allowed to exist by GOVERNMENT. Corporations pay $287 billion/yr in taxes so obviously they think it is worth it or they would just operate as partnerships. But when one starts to question whether or not the power large corporations have gained over our governments has become a threat to the public good then one is labled an anti-free trade anarchist who smokes too much MJ.
    Free markets are a fantasy in which the conservative nanny state insists we continue to believe. The corporate controlled media doesn’t even allow discussion of alternatives. Here’s two alternatives that would change everything: 1) Make all CEO and other upper management compensation subject o shareholder votes with the vote of anyone who doesn’t bother to vote be counted as a no instead of a yes as it is counted today. 2) Remove patents for drugs — funding all drug research with public money which include multi-million dollar bonuses to researchers who obtain breakthroughs.
    Just #2 above alone would easily free up enough money to triple the amount of money currently spent on research AND make that research skip over useless work like how to find a copy cat drug simply to charge higher patent monopoly prices. BUT, BUT, BUT, the conservative nanny-staters howl — that wouldn’t be “free trade”! Well you hypocritical dolts — wake-up, patents AREN’T free trade! They are time limited monopolies granted by government. If they aren’t working in the drug industry to promote the public welfare then “we the people” who supposedly run this government have the freedom to take them out of that industry. Oops, that’s the problem…conservative nanny staters don’t REALLY believe in free markets…only government control markets which favor their own special interests.

  19. INSANE
    ” .. I think (hope) the voters this year will .. vote for change.”
    Anyone who thinks BHO is going dump on Andy Stern at SEIU and the Harvard MD/JDs who gin-up studies for “universal health care,” and let foreign health care workers in — is out of his/her mind and needs to visit the psych ward.
    That will happen right after the cow jumps over the moon.
    Stop smoking MJ. It doesn’t help.
    As for this ” .. I do know of considerable data on the VA ..”
    Which is fatally-flawed because the VA population is much-different than that of the USA as a whole. Makes absolutely no sense, except to those who have no experience dealing with reality. I would no more give such alleged “experts” $1.00 than I would a monkey.
    As for this ” .. Given his injuries as a POW could he even get insurance?” My guess is, POWs get lifetime VA coverage.

  20. I think if McCain had to deal with the individual health insurance market he may have a different perspective. Given his injuries as a POW could he even get insurance? But his campaign funding and support is not coming from people who need affordable healthcare. Frankly I don’t think Hillary or Obama get it either, but at least Obama doesn’t want to mandate us into an overly expensive system.
    If I thought government run healthcare meant Washington Bureaucrats would be managing the day-to-day operations of my healthcare I would be against it as well. If you look at how Canada’s system is organized you find the federal government defines general principals/goals/mandates under the Canada Healthcare Act and does the macro management then leaves it to the provinces to locally manage it. The feds hold part of the funding stick to make sure the provinces uphold the Healthcare Act but it is the provinces that deal with the daily nuts and bolts and also determine provincial funding and cost controls. It’s not easy and it’s not perfect but it works. If single-pay were instituted here I would think/hope individual states would do most of the managing.
    If vets are unhapppy with the healthcare they get (example of failed government healthcare) then I guess they want more tax dollars spent on their behalf or they could buy their own healthcare – if they could afford it. The fact that they can’t afford private coverage is not the fault of mismanagment by the feds but the reality of what the rest of us have to endure because the feds have not done any cost control management and also because that’s what the health corporations want. Blame the private sector and it’s ability to spend millions lobbying and funding candidates against affordable healthcare.
    Just providing government healthcare without cost controls is going to be a failed strategy – leaving the system and escalating costs the way they are now is also a failed strategy. Ask yourself how long you can survive with healthcare inflation of 6% to 10% compounded yearly. How are you doing with gas and food prices lately?

  21. The premise of this article is valid. Most of our leaders are out of touch with the struggles of the common people in this country. What we basically have is a conservative nanny state which artificially creates scarcity for the high paying jobs reserved for the ruling class while throwing the rest of society to the wolves of “free” trade. Why don’t we have free trade in doctors? European and Japanese doctors work for much less than US doctors. There are millions of bright young foreigners who would jump at the chance to go to medical school and practice here for a fraction of the current average earning level of US doctors. Lets just open up our market to foreign doctors and tax their US earnings an 15% and send that money back to their home countries where that money could train 3 replacements. If free trade is good enough to make US factory worker earnings plummet, then why isn’t it good enough to make medical workers earnings plummet? If we are going to “Walmartize” life for the masses, then eventually the elites will have to make themselves subject to the same free markets they advocate for everyone else. Fundamentally, the earning ability of ALL service based professionals depends on the earning ability of the common people they serve. A truly free market would never allow what has happen to health care costs in this country. A truly free market would never allow the insane discrepancies in income that exist between classes in America today. For various reasons markets can never be truly free. Governments WILL intervene. The question is will the government be a conservative nanny state which enforces policies designed to enrich the ruling class or will it be a progressive state which enforces policies designed to provide for the general welfare. I think (hope) the voters this year will see through the conservative hypocrisy epitomized by McSame and Billary and vote for change.

  22. It is good that this foremost presidential candidate places high premium on health. We wish him well. Thank you for your always-interesting posts

  23. I’m in agreement with CT. I’m not exactly amazed at McCain’s insight (or lack thereof) into health policy issues, but an ad-hominem argument about his own history with government health care as a government employee (it’s not as if he was on Medicaid) contributes little to the discussion. It may well be the case that expanding government coverage to more people is the right way to go, but this post does the position a disservice.

  24. Waiting in long lines, dealing with bureaucracy, and not having the highest quality of care is probably preferable to having no health insurance at all, and no realistic access to health care because of the money involved.

  25. Was this post really worth writing?
    If McCain had had more difficulty with his access to care it would provide him with what? More empathy for the uninsured in this country? As if that is (or should) be a requisite for those who define health care policy in this country. No one should be dolling our tax dollars with their hearts on their sleeves.

  26. Midget and Bart, those are nice anecdotes. Does anyone have solid data on the quality and access available in military healthcare?
    I do know of considerable data on the VA, and the quality and access overall compare well with private sector healthcare…especially when you consider how much less is spent per person.
    And Bart, isn’t every large bureaucracy idiotic to some extent?

  27. My, my. What a grand knowledge-base.
    Most of the vets I know either (1) hate how they had to wait in lines for military health care or (2) thought the VA was a large, idiotic bureaucracy.
    And Hillary wants to have more of that. Excellent. Brilliant. I can’t think of a better grounds for impeachment.

  28. The point is not the quality of health facilities or physicians in military service. It is the difference between the options available under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program versus the lack of options available in the Individual Health Insurance Market. Here is where, as a self-employed person, I sincerely would not wish an Individual (versus Group) Health Insurance Policy on my friends or enemies.

  29. Government health care is for suckers. I had Navy “Healthcare” for 11 years and watched as a friend was misdiagnosed with stomache cramps (ruptured appendix) another friend was accidentally left for dead when he lost conciousness in his bunk on bed rest over a weekend waiting for his sick call appointment.
    Anyone who wants this level of fine care is welcome to it. Just join the military and I will happily pay my tax dollars for you to risk life and limb, not just in combat, but during every minor illness or accident.
    If you don’t serve in the military. or work for the government then you should get your own healthcare. You will undoubtedly live longer.