When it comes time to vote in November, will Americans know what they’re voting for in terms of their health care futures? Will they understand what Barack Obama or John McCain’s health proposals mean for them?
Over at Columbia Journalism Review, Trudy Lieberman says they won’t given the current media coverage of health reform. The journalism professor critiques the mainstream media’s coverage for basically
transcribing the candidates’ pitches, and says the blogosphere is overly wonky.
"Exactly how will all these economic and political calculations and
pronouncements affect those who struggle daily to fill their
prescriptions, find a competent doctor, or pay their medical bills?"
she asks. "These are the people whose stories the media have yet to
In a series called "Health Care on the Mississippi," Lieberman examines how the presidential candidates’ health proposals will affect ordinary folks.
In Part 1, she goes to Helena, Arkansas, a town of 6,300 along the Mississippi River to talk with the working-class residents about health care. Currently, most knew "nothing of the coming health care battle being waged in their name," she wrote.
In Part 2, Lieberman examines how Helena’s head jailer and his diabetic adult son would fair under McCain and Obama’s health plans.
"Neither father nor son would fare well under McCain’s proposals.
Bell the elder would have to pay taxes on the value of his health
insurance benefits. Economists argue that removing the tax exclusion
for employer-provided benefits is a move toward equity, since the
exclusion now favors highly paid people who get rich benefits. Equity
or not, Bell would have to find the money to pay the extra taxes on an
income that hardly covers the essentials. In exchange, he would get a
$2,500 tax credit to buy his own coverage, as an incentive to leave the
county’s health plan.
"Bell the younger would have the same problem. Even with the $2,500 tax
credit and additional federal subsidies, most likely he would still be
uninsured. His diabetes makes him uninsurable."
And how about under Obama’s Plan? Well, Lieberman writes, there’s still too many unknowns to say for certain.
"The elder Bell could keep his coverage, which will probably get
more expensive. Although Obama has promised that he would lower the
cost of premiums by $2500 for the typical family, health analysts
dispute whether this is achievable."
"Bell the younger has a shot at getting the consistent, ongoing
care so necessary for diabetics. Under an Obama plan, he might be able
to choose coverage in the public plan, assuming subsidies that are high
enough to cover the premiums. If by some chance the legislative sausage
grinder turns out a provision for automatic enrollment in existing
public plans, like Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance
Program (SCHIP), he would qualify, giving him fairly comprehensive
benefits and a way to pay for care."