Yesterday, during a roundtable discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations, Austan Goolsbee, Senior Economic Adviser to the Obama campaign asked McCain spokesperson Douglas Holtz-Eakin if McCain’s plan to give every American a refundable tax credit to purchase health insurance was “socialism”:
What about the health care credit which is not tied to work, and is refundable, and goes to all the very people? Is that socialism? Are you a Muslim?
All kidding aside, Goolsbee has a point. For while McCain has regularly attacked Obama’s model of comprehensive health care reform as government-run or socialistic, McCain’s tax credits and Guaranteed Access Plan to cover uninsurables allows the government to redistribute the wealth to those who chose to purchase health coverage or the sickest Americans who can’t afford or find plans in the unregulated individual market. (The latter group would need about $100 billion.)
In fact, just yesterday, during an interview in Orlando, Florida, McCain explained that the government would fund, regulate and approve plans in the G.A.P. initiative:
To start with we will give every family in America a $5,000 refundable tax credit so they can go any place in America and get the health insurance they need. Second, if Carolyn is not able to qualify for any health insurance policy, we will establish government approved plans to give them the health insurance they need.
More importantly, Goosbee’s exchange with Holtz-Eakin underscores the government’s role in helping Americans find affordable health insurance coverage. A pragmatic approach to health care reform would expand the group health market and improve public programs, thus giving Americans the choice of staying in employer coverage or joining a private or public plan.