During last night’s final presidential debate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) falsely claimed that “the average cost of a health care insurance plan” for a majority of Americans “is $5,800”:
Now, 95 percent of the people in America will receive more money under my plan because they will receive not only their present benefits, which may be taxed, which will be taxed, but then you add $5,000 onto it…And the good thing about this is they’ll be able to go across America. The average cost of a health care insurance plan in America today is $5,800. I’m going to give them $5,000 to take with them wherever they want to go, and this will give them affordability.
McCain confuses non-group plans with employer coverage. In the individual health insurance market, annual premiums averaged “$5,799 for family plans” but most Americans bought into more comprehensive employer-based plans which cost an average of $12,680, significantly higher than McCain’s so-called “average cost.”
To continue receiving “their present benefits,” the 158 million Americans in the employer system would have to stretch McCain’s $5,000 tax credit into $12,680 or enroll — if they are eligible — in subprime (and thus cheaper) coverage “across America.”
McCain’s awkward answer comes on the heals of internal confusion about the effects of the senator’s health care plan on employer-sponsored coverage and taxes. More importantly, the error highlights McCain’s personal unfamiliarity with health insurance. As a life-long beneficiary of government health care, McCain has never had to grapple with the rising costs of health care.