Monday, April 7, 2008

Talk with McCain's economic policy advisor, Douglas Holtz-Eakin

I'm just back from this event at the Urban Institute with Doug Holtz-Eakin. There were few memorable moments, as Holtz-Eakin avoided getting tied down on anything specific. The host, Howard Gleckman, did an admirable job of trying to get him to be concrete, but to little avail.

He did make a few inflammatory statements, though (or at least inflammatory as an economic advisor can get). In a discussion about health care, he said "All you have to do is look at the Medicare program to know what's wrong with American health care." This would come as news to the millions of Americans who are quite happy with their care under Medicare. (Note to self: look up polling data on satisfaction with Medicare.) There was a lot of discussion on health care, the need for technology, better service delivery, etc. but I didn't hear any tangible policy proposal other than doing away with the some tax benefits for employer-provided health care and instituting new credits. He did clarify something which I had misinterpreted before. McCain's website says that he proposes to "reform the tax code to eliminate the bias toward employer-sponsored health insurance." According to Holtz-Eakin this does NOT mean that the employer will no longer be able to deduct health insurance costs, as I had previously guessed. Rather, it means that the employee will now have to pay taxes on health insurance benefits provided by the employer. (Currently these benefits are not subject to tax.) In other words, in order to try to kill the current employer-based system, he would raise taxes for anyone who receives health insurance from their employer.

I'll write more on the rest of the talk later.

No comments: