2008 Election Issues: Health Care


Jan. 30, 2008 -- Health care is once again near the top of voters' concerns -- a position it has not held since the 1992 presidential race. A December 2007 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that health ranked second among issues voters want policymakers to address -- following only the war in Iraq -- among Democrats, Republicans and independents.

That may help explain why Democrats and Republicans running for president have offered up comprehensive health care policy proposals during the primary phase of their campaigns. Health care has long been an important voting issue for Democrats, but less so for the average GOP voter.

No matter which candidate emerges as each party's nominee, the general election will pit a Democrat with a plan to increase government involvement in the health care system against a Republican who wants to change the tax system to use market competition to control health care costs. Here's a sampling of each candidate's health care proposals:

The Candidates on Health Care
Democrats Republicans
Sen. Hillary Clinton. Photo: Getty Images

Sen. Hillary Clinton (NY): At the core of Clinton's "American Health Choices Plan" is that those who are happy with their current coverage can keep it and those who are unhappy or uninsured may choose from an array of new coverage options, including a public plan similar to Medicare. The plan includes an "individual mandate" that everyone should have insurance. It would require a combination of individual, government and employer financing -- with subsidies for those with low incomes.

Sen. John McCain. Photo: Getty Images

Sen. John McCain (AZ): McCain calls for measuring the quality of care provided by doctors and hospitals by basing payments, in part, on how successfully they manage chronic conditions like diabetes or asthma. Ratings would be made available to the public. McCain would also replace the current tax-free status of coverage provided by employers with refundable tax credits worth $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to help purchase insurance. McCain would allow the sale of insurance policies across state lines, rather than state by state, as is currently the case.

Sen. Barack Obama. Photo: Getty Images

Sen. Barack Obama (IL): Obama would create a new plan for those who lack other access to coverage, as well as a National Health Insurance Exchange to help pool the purchasing power of small businesses and individuals. Obama would also offer a combination of subsidies and tax credits to help make coverage more affordable. He would mandate health insurance coverage for children but not adults. Obama would create a federally sponsored health insurance plan, similar to Medicare, that would compete with private plans for those under 65.

Sources: Candidate Web sites and speeches and www.Health08.org.