Obama Takes Aim at McCain's Health Proposals

Sen. Barack Obama spent much of this week in key battleground states including Virginia. As part of his campaigning, he attacked Sen. John McCain's health care plan at rallies and in advertisements.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News, I'm Liane Hansen. While Republican John McCain spent the day preparing for Tuesday's presidential debate, Democrat Barack Obama launched an attack yesterday on his opponent's healthcare platform. The two men have clear differences on that issue, and it's one that Obama hopes will give him the advantage with swing voters. NPR's Audie Cornish reports.

AUDIE CORNISH: A flurry of new Obama campaign mailers, radio and television ads attacking McCain's healthcare plan is due to hit battleground states this week. McCain's proposal would give families a $5,000 tax credit to purchase the health insurance plan of their choice. But at a rally outside of Norfolk, Virginia, Obama called the proposal radical and deceptive.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois: 2008 Democratic Presidential Nominee): A $5,000 tax credit sounds good. But what Senator McCain doesn't tell you is the average cost of a family healthcare plan these days is more than twice that much. It's $12,680. So where would that leave you?

(Soundbite of applause)

Senator OBAMA: Broke.

CORNISH: Obama told voters that McCain's plan would only encourage insurers to cherry-pick healthy customers and abandon those with pre-existing health conditions.

Senator OBAMA: It's the same approach George W. Bush floated a few years ago. It was dead on arrival in Congress and for good reason. But if Senator McCain were to succeed where George Bush failed, it very well could be the beginning of the end of our employer-based healthcare system.

CORNISH: Obama's plan proposes to ban insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, and the Democrat wants to require that all employers either offer a health insurance plan or pay a six percent tax on their payroll towards the national health insurance pool. Obama says his plan isn't socialized care, as his rivals claim, but an improvement on the current work pay system.

Senator OBAMA: If you have health insurance you like, keep your health insurance. If you have a doctor that you like, you keep that doctor. The only thing that changes for you if you've already got health insurance is that your healthcare costs will go down.

CORNISH: Before Obama had even finished the speech, the McCain campaign had responded that the Democrat was lying about their proposals. The pair will likely finish this discussion in person at their second debate on Tuesday. Audie Cornish, NPR News, traveling with the Obama campaign.

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Correction Oct. 8, 2008

We said Obama spoke "at a rally outside of Norfolk, Va." The rally was in Newport News, Va.

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