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Tuesday, May 06, 2003


Non-Plan? Nonsense.

posted by Joe at Tuesday, May 06, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Matthew Yglesias is writing about Howard Dean's "non-plan" for getting every American health insurance. It's worth noting that this "non-plan" designation -- by Matt's own admission -- excludes Dean's plan to cover the two most vulnerable segments of our population:
Dean either doesn't have an actual plan for the non-child non-senior portion of the population, or else his plan is a secret. If we could see what the plan is, then we could try and decide whether or not it's a good one, but for now, there's nothing.
I agree with Matt that "Dean's Two-Thirds-Plan" probably would not have been as provocative a headline as "Dean's Non-Plan".

He goes on to say that he and Max Sawicky (who is also writing about this) are basing their analysis only on Dean's website, and that anyone with documentation of what Dean's plan actually is should step forward. As it happens, one doesn't need more than Dean's website to figure out his plan for universal health care. But given the currency that this non-plan nonsense is getting from big names like Yglesias and Sawicky, the campaign would do well to get out in front of this one.

Nevertheless, going by the website, this, I gather, is Dean's plan to bring insurance to all people ...

-- under 23: require states to cover not only the poorest of younger kids, but all kids to age 23.

-- over 65: have the federal government take responsibility for drug and acute medical care.

-- who are poor, unemployed, under-employed, or otherwise lack insurance: provide refundable tax credits and direct subsidies to the individual (not his employer) to buy health insurance in the private market.

He plans to pay for this by returning to the tax system in place on January 19, 2001. Moreover, it seems that this plan, either in parts or in whole, could actually pass (Dick Gephardt, I'm looking in your direction), especially if the third element can be sold as a "tax cut".

Not enough of a plan, you say? Not enough detail? Hold your horses. Here are the other candidates' plans:

John Edwards -- "Senator Edwards believes we need to end the national disgrace of more than 40 million Americans without any health coverage, and that universal coverage is a goal we need to achieve." That's all he says about getting people insured (scroll halfway down the page to find it).

John Kerry -- "Senator Kerry believes the [State Children's Health Insurance Plan (S-CHIP)] needs to be expanded." He doesn't say by how much or to cover whom. Like Edwards, he's talking about a patients bill of rights that won't insure a single person, falling victim to the fallacy that says attaching "bill of rights" to a set of policies makes them at all significant.

Joe Lieberman -- Lieberman says that during the campaign he "will talk about the tough fights ahead" and that "affordable health care available to every American" is one of them. He evidently means "will talk" very literally, because he has not talked about it yet. That second excerpt is the only reference I could find to health care on Lieberman's website.

Bob Graham -- Graham doesn't have a website yet, but insofar as he's unwilling to repeal the first Bush tax cut it's hard to see how he would pay for any substantial plan to cover people. I'm not even certain he's for pursuing universal coverage anytime soon.

Al Sharpton -- Sharpton has a site, but doesn't mention any of those pesky issues. The URL for his site does rhyme, though.

Carol Moseley-Braun -- Braun has a site and what is ostensibly an issues page lets us know that "social justice and safe, healthy communities are well within our grasp." Nothing else from her.

Dennis Kucinich -- Kucinich has a plan: raise taxes and create a single-payer system. Brilliant in its simplicity, dead on arrival in Congress -- and, probably, the Democratic primary.

Dick Gephardt -- Gephardt was the first to come out with a truly comprehensive plan. Though after a read-through, it appears that "comprehensive" is merely a stand-in for "complicated". It's not clear that Gephardt's plan would cover everyone. For instance, it's not likely to cover me, a 22-year-old who recently couldn't afford even the relatively cheap university health plan and who, after leaving school, did something other than find a full-time job with a company that provides insurance. Gephardt's plan also isn't likely to cover the unemployed; he provides only "a 65% federal subsidy for COBRA coverage would be created for the eligible unemployed." Nor are part-time workers necessarily covered; they still pay up to 40% of premiums (to say nothing of prescriptions and other out-of-pocket costs). Ditto for the working poor, who must make no more than 100% of poverty -- that is, be really, really poor -- in order to qualify for the full 25% refundable tax credit.

Howard Dean's plan may be less fleshed-out than Gephardt's, but it's the most detailed non-crazy alternative being offered. And it is possible to compare the two. For instance, Dean will expand SCHIP to cover all children up to age 23. Gephardt does not expand SCHIP to cover more children or provide better coverage, but wants to allow parents of already-eligible children to be covered by the same program. Matt and Max missed that potential comparison. I didn't -- Dean covers me, Gephardt doesn't. Guess who I support.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.