Monday, October 27, 2008

Former NM Health Secretary Rebukes John McCain's Plan to Tax Healthcare!

With all the talk about economic bailout plans, falling stock prices, and rising energy costs it is easy to lose site of some of the other top issues in this year's election.

One that we've focused on is health care for all Americans. We thought we'd re-visit this important issue before the election.

Last week jobless claims rose 15,000 to 478,000 according to government reports. While the number of people collecting regular state unemployment benefits fell by 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 3.72 million in the week ended Oct. 11, the four-week average of continuing claims rose by 44,250 to 3.68 million, the highest in more than five years.

The government's October employment survey was conducted last week, with the results to be released on Nov. 7. Compared with September's survey week, initial claims are up about 8%, while continuing claims are up about 6%.

While states may increase the length of their wage benefits, these hard-working Americans, many who oppose national or universal health care, are about to find out what many people have been talking about for years, and they won't be able to afford the short-term Cobra benefits. Once they land a new job, if economic conditions improve, they'll find out any of their pre-existing conditions won't be covered.

Last Monday, we attended a health care townhall meeting with U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, former NM Health Secretary Michelle Lujan Grisham, and UNM Doctor Don Dirkson. They talked to a crowd of about 50 people about exactly what they can expect if Barack Obama is elected president next week.

Essentially, all three VIP's advocated for more access. Each one said that health care isn't about insurance it's about access to quality health care.

Grisham tells us she's been busy since losing to Martin Heinrick in the first congressional district primary in June. In August, she formerd a consulting group with Deborah Armstrong (another former Health Secretary). Grisham told me their new group, Delta Consulting Group, incorpated this summer. We invited her to write a guest column and she responded with this thoughtful piece.

Photo from: MG Bralley
Guest Opinion - John McCain's Plan to Tax our Healthcare!

Our health care system is broken. Barack Obama has a plan to fix it and ensure that every New Mexican has access to quality, affordable healthcare. John McCain will only make it worse by pursuing his policy of deregulation.

New Mexico has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country with an uninsured population of more than 400,000, including about 64,000 children. Currently, one out of every four people in New Mexico does not have the ability to regularly visit a doctor or a health care provider due to lack of health insurance. This is unacceptable.

Since President Bush has taken office, health care costs have risen 4.6 times faster than average wages in New Mexico. And, rather than standing up to health insurance companies to reduce health care costs, John McCain's plan will tax your health care benefits for the first time in history, and lead 20 million workers to lose the coverage they get from their employers, including 98,000 New Mexicans. McCain will pay for his health care plan with a massive tax increase on middle class families, and with costs skyrocketing, that'll mean even more pain and even worse access for your family down the road.

Under New Mexico state law, insurance providers must provide coverage of diabetes care, mammograms, home health care, and immunizations, to name a few. However, the McCain plan will put these services at risk by deregulating the insurance industry and removing the protections state legislatures pass for their constituents. Additionally, the McCain plan won't do anything to stop insurance companies from discriminating against you if you've got a pre-existing condition like asthma or diabetes and require the provision of preventive health care.

McCain's plan to deregulate the health care industry – just like he and his allies have done with our financial markets – would be catastrophic for New Mexicans. We can't afford four more years of deregulation and New Mexicans to fend for themselves.

In an Obama administration, we're going to finally stand up to the big drug and insurance companies and provide affordable, accessible health care for every single New Mexican. Obama will work with employers who are providing health care for their employees and lower premiums by up to $2,500 per family per year, and he'll reduce costs for business and their workers by picking up the tab for some of the most expensive illnesses and conditions. He will create a Small Business Health Tax Credit to provide small businesses with a refundable tax credit of up to 50% on premiums paid by small businesses on behalf of their employees.

Obama will make sure no American is turned away from any insurance plan because of illness or pre-existing conditions. And he will have Medicare negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies so that prescription drugs are not cost prohibitive for those seniors.

Taxing middle class families to receive health care is not the answer. Senator Obama will fight for middle class families so that all New Mexicans have a health plan that's as good as the one he has as a Member of Congress.

Michelle Lujan Grisham, J.D.
Former Secretary NM Department of Health

Barack Obama and Joe Biden's Health Care Plan is Available for Review here.

or watch this video.

Last August, Charlie Rose interviewed John McCain on his health care ideas.

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