Obama blasts McCain's health care plan as 'out of touch'

Sen. Barack Obama, campaigning Saturday in the battleground state of Virginia, lashed out at his presidential rival

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

CNN) -- Barack Obama campaigns Saturday in Virginia, a state that is up for grabs in the November election.

1 of 2 In a Saturday morning radio address, Sen. John McCain said his administration would give every family a $5,000 tax credit to buy their own health insurance or keep their current plan. "And we will open up the national health care market to expand choices and improve quality," he said.

Obama, speaking at a rally in Newport News, Virginia, said it's not that McCain "doesn't care" about what people are going through, "I just think he doesn't know."

"That's the only reason I can think of that he'd propose a health care plan that is so radical, so out of touch with what you're facing and so out of line with our basic values."

McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds responded Saturday to Obama's comments.

"Our Democratic opponent had the audacity to call John McCain's health care plan 'radical.' The American people know radical when they hear it, and John McCain is not the candidate in this election they should be concerned about," Bounds said in a statement.

Obama added that McCain is offering to give Americans a tax credit of $2,500 per person or $5,000 per family to help pay insurance and health care costs. "But like those ads for prescription drugs, you've got to read the fine print to learn the rest of the story and to find out the side effects," he said.

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"So when you read the fine print, it's clear that John McCain is pulling an old Washington bait and switch. It's a shell game. He gives you a tax credit with one hand but raises your taxes with the other," Obama said. Watch more of Obama's comments

A $5,000 tax credit sounds pretty good, Obama said. "What McCain doesn't tell you is, the average cost of a family health care plan these days is more than twice that much: $12,680. So where would that leave you? Broke."

McCain has said he would reform the tax code to offer choices beyond employee-based health insurance coverage.

McCain's campaign Web site states, "Families should be able to purchase health insurance nationwide, across state lines, and their policy should follow them from job to job."

Obama's plan, meanwhile, would create a national health insurance program for individuals who do not have employer-provided health care and who do not qualify for other existing federal programs. The plan does not mandate individual coverage for all Americans but requires coverage for all children and allows individuals younger than 25 to be covered through their parents' plans.

The plan also allows individuals to choose between the new public insurance program and private insurance plans that meet certain coverage standards.

The Obama campaign Web site says the coverage would have benefits similar to those offered to Congress through the Federal Employees Benefits Program. The plan would expand eligibility for Medicaid and State's Children's Health Insurance Program.

Obama estimates the cost at between $50 billion and $65 billion, to be paid for by eliminating President Bush's tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000.

Obama said that the solution is to "take on drug and insurance companies, modernize our health care system for the 21st century, reduce costs for families and businesses and finally provide affordable, accessible health care for every American."

Obama also compared McCain's health care plan to deregulation of the banking industry, referring to the condoning crisis plaguing the country ant Congress' recent $700 billion bailout of the banking industry.

"His plan calls for massive deregulation of the insurance industry that would leave families without the basic protections you rely on," Obama said. "He wants to deregulate the insurance industry just like he fought to deregulate the banking industry. And we've seen how well that worked out."

During the vice presidential debate October 2, Joe Biden described McCain as a longtime supporter of deregulation of the banking industry.

"As a matter of fact, John recently wrote an article in a major magazine saying that what he wants to do for the health care industry [is] deregulate it and let the free market move like he did for the banking industry."

In Congress, McCain has frequently supported deregulation. Some aspects of that deregulation are now widely blamed for the problems on Wall Street.

In the current issue of a magazine for the American Academy of Actuaries, McCain discussed a change he wants to bring to the health care market: allowing people to buy plans across state lines.

"Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation," he wrote in Contingencies magazine.

Biden and Obama have pointed to the first part of that quote to bolster their argument that McCain wants to see the health care industry undergo the same changes as the banking industry.

But the reform McCain wants for health care -- state deregulation -- is only one of several types of deregulation that reshaped the banking industry. McCain has not proposed reshaping the health care industry in all the same ways as banks.

McCain and his opponents disagree over what impact state deregulation could have on the health care industry. McCain says the increased competition would benefit consumers; Obama says consumers would lose key protections and insurance companies would be given more power.

Though a frequent fan of deregulation, McCain blames the current Wall Street crisis partly on federal regulatory agencies failing to do their jobs, and he vows to "replace the outdated patchwork quilt of regulatory oversight" with a high-level, bipartisan oversight board.


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