MIAMI (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate John McCain criticized his Democratic rivals on Monday for a “big government” approach to health care and said he would focus on reducing costs and increasing coverage.
McCain launched a week-long campaign swing on his health care plans with a visit to a Miami children’s hospital and a talk with parents of ill children who have been forced to endure long struggles with care and costs.
“America can have a health care system that is characterized by better prevention, coordinated care, electronic health records, cutting-edge treatments — and lower costs,” McCain said.
He drew a contrast with the Democrats battling for the right to face him in November’s presidential election — Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
The debate on overhauling the U.S. health care system has been one of the campaign’s top issues.
Both Democrats have set a goal of universal health care coverage for the 47 million Americans without health insurance. Clinton would mandate some form of coverage for all individuals, while Obama would only mandate coverage for children.
McCain’s plan, released last year, does not include a mandate requiring coverage.
“That’s the fundamental difference between myself and Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. They want the governments to make the decisions, I want the families to make the decisions,” he told reporters.
“My goal is to make health care available and affordable, including insurance, to every American family. I do not mandate it nor do I mandate other things. That’s what big government is all about and that’s the difference in philosophy that we have,” he said.
The Democratic plans offered by Obama and Clinton propose health care coverage through a mixture of private and public sources and would not be government-run. Both would allow individuals to buy into the health plan that covers members of Congress and other federal employees.
McCain’s plan includes a tax credit of $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families. It would make it possible to buy coverage through any organization, reducing but not eliminating the reliance on employer-provided plans.
“We must move away from a system that is fragmented and pays for expensive procedures toward one where a family has a medical home, providers coordinate their efforts and take advantage of technology to do so cheaply, and where the focus is on affordable quality outcomes,” McCain said.
“I am convinced that the wrong way to go is to turn over your lives to the government and hope it will all be fine. It won’t,” he said.
The Arizona senator criticized national government-run health plans in some European countries.
“I’m not going to do like the Europeans have and have expensive health care systems that are neither efficient or, frankly, the quality we have here in America,” he said.
McCain plans a broader speech on his health care proposals on Tuesday. He toured the children’s hospital in Miami, visiting a 36-day-old baby who was born prematurely with a heart disease and survived surgery, but who doctors said will need a lifetime of care.
(Editing by David Wiessler)
To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at http:/blogs.reuters.com/trail08/