NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Democrat Barack Obama sharply criticized Republican John McCain’s health care proposals Saturday, saying they could force millions of Americans to struggle to buy medical insurance.
Turning to an issue that has faded somewhat during the economic crisis, Obama gave an unusually detailed outline of his own plans in a 40-minute speech to thousands of sun-soaked Virginians at a waterside park in Newport News. He would make coverage more affordable to most Americans, he said, paying for the subsidies largely by canceling the Bush administration’s tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year.
In a sign that the presidential campaign’s final month may have a nastier tone, Obama called McCain’s health plan “radical,” and Republican officials accused Obama of lying.
Obama told the Virginia crowd he would reduce premiums for most people by “as much as $2,500 per family.”
He would save money in the health care system, he said, by holding drug and insurance companies “accountable for the prices they charge and the harm they cause.” He also said he would outlaw “insurance company discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.”
Medicare would be allowed to negotiate with drug makers for cheaper prices, and his administration would place greater emphasis on preventing illnesses, he said.
“The time has come to solve this problem, to cut health care costs for families and businesses, and provide affordable, accessible health insurance for every American,” Obama said.
He devoted at least half his speech to criticizing McCain. The Republican nominee has proposed to tax the health benefits that 156 million people get through the workplace as income. In exchange, McCain would give tax credits to help pay for insurance – $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families, paid directly to the insurer they choose.