Love the Wall Street bailout? Try McCain on health insurance deregulation

Barack Obama’s campaign talked up a new TV spot about health care today, and it’s a good one. The ad quotes a new article where John McCain says he’d like to deregulate health care “as we have done over the last decade with banking.” Huh?! I assume the magazine had already gone to print when the banking industry came crashing down around us, but this quote could kill McCain — and numerous Americans, too, should he ever get his way.

This whole health care thing happens to be something I know a little bit about, though possibly only enough to be dangerous. When I worked in the U.S. Senate on small business issues I rarely heard from constituents about taxes, but I always heard about health care.

McCain’s full quote from Contingencies Magazine, available online as a PDF, is:

“I would also allow individuals to choose to purchase health insurance across state lines… Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade with banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.”

That sounds good and all, but regulation of the health insurance industry doesn’t come from Washington. In fact, nearly all rules governing provision of care, cherry-picking, patients’ rights, etc. … come from the state level.

Deregulation would mean no regulation, which could lead to a collapse at least equal to that we saw on Wall Street last week. As Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius put it on a press call today, this isn’t just about our pocket books — this is life and death.

The full ad from Obama:

Incidentally, the federal government does a great job of providing health care options for its employees in all 50 states. When I got my job in the Senate they handed me a book filled with all sorts of options at all sorts of different price levels with all sorts of different health benefits. One of the most popular health care reform plans bouncing around Washington would open this system, called the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP), to everyone. This is what politicians mean when they say folks will have access to the same health care that members of Congress give themselves. (See here and here for more info.)

As for McCain, I certainly hope he never has the chance to deregulate health care the way he oh-so-successfully deregulated banking. Transparency and oversight actually help sometimes, a lesson I think at least for now most of us have learned.

Colorado Independent’s blogumnist (blogger-columnist) Jeff Bridges has worked in Democratic politics for the last 10 years, serving as communications director for two congressional races in Colorado and two governor’s races in the Deep South. Bridges also worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., with a focus on military and small business issues.

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