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McCain on health care

From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
TAMPA, Fla. -- Despite receiving top billing during McCain's weeklong health-care tour, this morning's speech at the University of Southern Florida featured only an expansion of the healthcare proposal McCain has been advocating on the stump for months.

Even McCain's top policy advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin had little to preview during a sit down with reporters last night saying, "Remember, it is April, and the election's November, so not everything will happen tomorrow or this week."

When asked what was new, Holtz-Eakin said, "There's more examples on all fronts of what he thinks of as the personal responsibility and prevention issues, treatment of chronic diseases and insurance market issues."

The center of McCain's health-care proposal is the creation of a refundable health-care tax credit of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to go toward offsetting the cost of health insurance. The tax credit would be available to everyone, and partial funding would come from eliminating the tax credit currently given only to employees.

"You simply choose the insurance provider that suits you best," McCain said this morning. "By mail or online, you would then inform the government of your selection. And the money to help pay for your health care would be sent straight to that insurance provider."

Individuals would be free to remain covered under their employers' plan, and employers would continue to receive tax exemptions for insurance provided to employees. The McCain campaign asserts that providing an option other than employer-based health care "would help change the whole dynamic of the current system, putting individuals and families back in charge, and forcing companies to respond with better service at lower cost."

Additionally, McCain repeated his proposal for increased insurance portability and called for allowing individuals to purchase insurance across state lines. Pushing back against the notion that his plan would make it difficult for those with preexisting conditions to find an insurance provider on the open market, McCain said he would work with states to establish Guaranteed Access Plans -- even proposing a government-funded GAP.

"Federal assistance could be provided to a nonprofit GAP that operated under the direction of a board that included all stakeholders groups -- legislators, insurers, business and medical community representatives, and, most importantly, patients," McCain said. "The board would contract with insurers to cover patients who have been denied insurance and could join with other state plans to enlarge pools and lower overhead costs. There would be reasonable limits on premiums, and assistance would be available for Americans below a certain income level."