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How John McCain Will Lose This Election

A Commentary by Susan Estrich

Friday, May 02, 2008

There's a lot of talk lately about how John McCain might just be the luckiest guy in America, what with the Democrats still fighting among each other, the Rev. Wright proving that friends can be worse than enemies, and Republicans swallowing their doubts about their about-to-be nominee and giving their support to a guy many conservatives can barely stomach. No doubt, he's one lucky fella.

But what makes him even luckier is that he and his wife don't have to rely on the health care plan he proposed this week. If they did, they'd be in trouble.

Imagine the call to the local insurance company. Here's a couple that companies would be falling all over each other to compete to insure: He's an active 70-something with a history of recurrent cancer and major surgery. She's 20 years younger, but with a medical history that includes a stroke in her 40s. How do you spell uninsurable? How do you spell see you later? How do you spell thanks, but no thanks, no matter how many millions the missus has?

Has John McCain ever tried to get insurance on the "free" market?

Has he ever tried to buy it for anyone else who is in better health than he and his wife?

My guess, reading the plan he offered this week, is that he hasn't.

When I looked at it and tried to figure out how the McCains would manage to get coverage, the answer was simple: They'd get a nice tax credit that wouldn't help them one bit to purchase insurance because no one would want to sell to them.

"John McCain understands that those without prior group coverage and those with pre-existing conditions have the most difficulty on the individual market, and we need to make sure they get the high-quality coverage they need."

That's what it says on his website: www.johnmccain.com. So what is he going to do for those millions of people? Nothing. "John McCain Will Work With States To Establish A Guaranteed Access Plan."

Work with states to establish a Guaranteed Access Plan? Come again? What does that mean?

"John McCain will work with governors to develop a best practice model that states can follow -- a Guaranteed Access Plan or GAP -- that would reflect the best experience of the states to ensure these patients have access to health coverage. One approach would establish a nonprofit corporation that would contract with insurers to cover patients who have been denied insurance and could join with other state plans to enlarge pools and lower overhead costs."

Any other approaches? And any idea what to do in the meantime, while the guy who is supposed to be in charge is working with the states to come up with an idea and millions of people still can't find insurance?

I tried to buy health insurance for the woman who has helped me raise my children. At the time, she had gastritis -- not cancer, not a history of strokes. Stomach aches. That was enough for every plan but the HMO she least wanted to reject her. I was willing to pay whatever it cost, but it didn't matter. They didn't want my money. One doctor actually told her that if she stopped taking any medicine for her stomach for six months maybe she could qualify for coverage.

We settled for the HMO. Then she developed early stage osteoporosis -- blood pressure was a little high, but completely controlled by medication. And when I tried to get her a better plan from the same HMO, she got rejected again. When I inquired of my insurance agent about getting her better coverage, she laughed. "Are you kidding?" she said. "You wouldn't get any coverage at all now."

Stick with what you have. Be grateful you got anything. And, dare I say, knock on wood that her health history is a lot better than that McCain couple. Are they lucky? For sure. But whether their luck will hold until November is another question. It will take a lot of work with governors, that's for sure.

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