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Elizabeth Edwards On Health Care: ‘This Is Not A Cheap Shot; It Is Potentially Life And Death’

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"Elizabeth Edwards On Health Care: ‘This Is Not A Cheap Shot; It Is Potentially Life And Death’"

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Our guest blogger is Elizabeth Edwards, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and wife of former Presidential candidate John Edwards.

elizJohn McCain accused me of taking a “cheap shot” on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” yesterday for noting that people with preexisting conditions, such as he and I have, would not be able to get health care under his plan –- and that he perhaps was not as sensitive to this problem as he should be since he has been in government health care his whole life.

Sen. McCain noted that he was not receiving government health care for the six years he was in captivity. That is true. But it has nothing to do with my point — which is that the problem with Sen. McCain’s health care plan is not how it affects us –- but how it affects the tens of millions of Americans with preexisting conditions who, unlike Sen. McCain and myself, do not have the resources to pay for quality health care.

That is not a cheap shot, it is a potentially life and death question for tens of million of Americans. And it is a question Sen. McCain must address.

McCain’s health care plan is centered around the idea that we’d be better off if more Americans bought health coverage on their own, rather than receiving it through a job or government program. But maybe since he has never purchased insurance in the individual market, he does not know the challenge it presents for Americans with preexisting conditions.

A recent study showed that nearly nine out of every ten people seeking individual coverage on the private insurance market never got it. Insurers will disqualify you for just taking certain medicines because of the possibility of future costs, including common drugs as Lipitor, Zocor, Nexium, and Advair. People who have had cancer are denied coverage and those who get cancer run the risk of simply being dropped by their insurer for any excuse that can be found. And insurers make it a practice to deny coverage to individuals in high risk occupations, such as firefighting, lumber work, telecom installation, and pretty much anything more risky than working in an office.

McCain opposes universal health care because he claims it represents a “big government takeover and mandates.” But yesterday, he said he would help cover people with preexisting conditions by creating a “special Medicaid trust fund.”

A “special Medicaid trust fund”? Talk about a big government takeover. Tens of millions of Americans have preexisting conditions. If he is going to expand Medicaid to cover Americans with preexisting conditions, he is talking about a massive, massive increase in the Medicaid program. He says he opposes more government involvement in health care, but his idea really would be government-run health care.

My questions is: why is he doing this? If he is so concerned about expanding government’s role in health care, why doesn’t he just tell the insurance industry that they have to cover people with preexisting conditions? Why is he more concerned about protecting the insurance industry –- an industry which, by the way, his corporate tax cut plan gives a $1.9 billion tax cut to –- than the tens of millions Americans with preexisting conditions?

McCain’s advisors still can’t say how this special Medicare trust fund will work. I gather we will find that out when Senator McCain gives a speech on health care later this month. Rest assured, I will be paying attention.

UPDATE: Watch the video here.

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