TAMPA, Fla. — Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, unveiled his health care plan at the Moffitt Cancer Center here April 29, calling for private health savings accounts. An hour or so later, Florida union health care workers convened a news conference nearby to blast his scheme as a carbon copy of George W. Bush’s discredited “medical savings accounts.”
They demanded that McCain take a stand now on a bill pending in the Senate to protect Medicaid from presidential directives that would slash the program for the poor by $13 billion.
They also demanded that he support expansion of the SCHIP children’s health program to cover 10 million uninsured children.
Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network, told the news conference health care workers and consumers were calling on McCain and Florida Sen. Mel Martinez to “abandon the Bush way of putting insurance company profits first and the health care of the American people last. Support expanding SCHIP. Vote to override Bush’s $13 billion in cuts to Medicaid.”
Roselilly Story, a registered nurse and member of the Service Employees International Union, said McCain’s plan leaves “millions uninsured and billions in tax breaks for insurance companies. That’s not the prescription our country needs.”
Grace Peay, a former nurse disabled in a car accident 12 years ago, said, “While I barely scrape by, barely able to afford food and rent, insurance companies and drug companies are enjoying record profits. And what does John McCain propose, a man who suffers his own disability … who has been cared for by government-financed health care for his entire adult life? More of the same … We need John McCain to support SCHIP.”
Jeremy Funk, media director of the Campaign to Change America, pointed out that the $35 billion to expand SCHIP for five years equals “the amount America is spending in Iraq every 100 days.”
Last August, McCain voted against reauthorizing SCHIP and on Oct. 31, he supported Bush’s veto of a bill to increase SCHIP funding. Both Democratic presidential candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, support SCHIP expansion.
A just-released report by the Government Accountability Office charged that the Bush administration “violated federal laws last year when it restricted states’ ability to provide SCHIP health care insurance to children of middle-income families.”
At least 22 states provide SCHIP to these youngsters.
The administration is now attempting to impose similar unilateral cutbacks in Medicaid.
On April 24 the House voted 349-62, a veto-proof majority, to block for one year Bush’s $13 billion Medicaid cut.
Jenny Sullivan, a policy analyst with Families USA, told the World the Bush directives would inflict a $50 billion cut in Medicaid benefits over the next five years.
The vote to block Bush’s directives “is one of the few examples of a successful bipartisan stand against Bush,” she said. “If they can muster a veto-proof majority in the Senate, we can make these directives go away for a year.”
Health care advocates demanded that McCain commit himself to vote to override Bush’s promised veto of the one-year moratorium on the cuts. Sens. Clinton and Obama are certain to vote to override Bush’s veto.
AFL-CIO Political Action Director Karen Ackerman, speaking at an April 30 telephone news conference, called the McCain-Bush health savings plans “ridiculous.” She warned that employers would use these individual medical savings accounts as an excuse to dump health care plans workers fought for decades to win.
“McCain’s plan would be an absolute disaster for working families,” she said. “It’s a plan only the insurance companies could love.”
The AFL-CIO has put the fight to expose McCain’s scheme on the agenda of 337 central labor council and state federation meetings.
On May 17 the AFL-CIO will stage a “labor to neighbor” walk in 125 cities to spread the truth about McCain’s plan. One million leaflets will be passed out at workplaces exposing the plan.