Bailout seen hitting Obama, McCain health plans
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. government's $700 billion plan to bail out Wall Street will likely take a toll on both presidential candidates' plans to reform health care in America, Lancet Oncology reported on Tuesday.
Policy experts quoted in the report said plans proposed by Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain would need to be scaled back.
"This will be the largest budget deficit in U.S. history, and will present an immense challenge for either plan. Reform will likely be very incremental and around the edges," Roger Feldman of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis told the journal.
People quoted by the journal disagreed over which plan would take the biggest hit.
Obama's plan seeks to build on the current employer-based insurance system and would require all employers except small businesses to offer health insurance or contribute to the cost of coverage. It would replace the current individual insurance market with an insurance exchange in which small businesses and those without access to coverage could buy a private or public health plan with tax credits.
McCain's plan seeks to put health insurance into the hands of individuals by removing tax breaks for employer-paid health benefits and offering tax credits of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families instead.
"Obama's plan would be more impacted, but it will be very difficult to fully implement either plan," Feldman said.
Michael Cannon of the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington, agreed. "Obama's plan involves more spending and proposes a new Medicare-like program costing $140 billion a year in new spending. There's not going to be money for that," Cannon was quoted by Lancet Oncology as saying.
Sherry Glied of Columbia University in New York said McCain's plan, which emphasizes cost containment over health insurance expansion, may be hit harder.
"It's hard to imagine Congress will want to expend political capital taking on its expense with little to show in terms of expanded coverage," Glied told the journal.
Researchers at the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center project McCain's plan would cost $1.3 trillion over 10 years and Obama's would cost $1.6 trillion.
(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Maggie Fox and Peter Cooney)
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