I surprise myself in becoming more of a health policy wonk as time goes on. I actually took the time to read both candidate's health plans (actually, four of them, including Hillay's and Wyden's). Ok, they were pretty dull, and thin on some details. But I have acquired a good working knowledge of the plans as the candidates have proposed.
One of the criticisms I had of Obama's as compared to Hillary's was that it was not truly universal. It did not contain any sort of mandate or requirement for enrollment. Many others, including the NYT's Paul Krugman said the same. Hillary's plan did have a mandate, though she was vague as to how it would have been enforced.
So I was jolted out of my chair last night when McCain asserted the "remarkable" fact that Obama was intending to "fine" Americans who did not have health insurance.
"If you’re a small businessperson and you don’t insure your employees, Senator Obama will fine you. He'll fine you. That's remarkable. If you're a parent and you're struggling to get health insurance for your children, Senator Obama will fine you."He also snarkily repeated himself after Obama's rebuttal.
Yes, that is remarkable. Remarkable in that I had never ever heard that before. In fact, surfing over to Obama's web site, I noted that the full text of the plan made no mention of fines (or any type of enforcement) for failing to sign up. In fact, there was no obligation to sign up at all for adults, and while children are required to have coverage, tax credits, expansion of SCHIP and connector plans would prevent this from being prohibitively expensive.
I wasn't the only one to notice McCain's remarkable claim. (His running mate also made a similar distortion of Obama's plan last week.) Interestingly, most of the fact-checkers missed the larger point. Obama's plan, they note, exempts small businesses from the requirement to provide health insurance to employees. Nowhere is there specified a "fine" for business who do not -- simply a choice of providing health care or contributing to the national plan. It is a distortion at best to characterize this as a "fine." McCain's more ambitious claim, however, was that Obama will fine families directly. There's absolutely nothing outside of McCain's fevered imagination to support that contention.
I would say that McCain told a "lie" with this mischaracterization of Obama's intentions; that's what we used to call a deliberate statement of an untruth. But the word "lie" has been bandied about so much with him that it's lost all meaning. I'll simply leave it as remarkable; McCain's word is quite apt.
It is remarkable that a man whose career was built on the concepts of personal honor and integrity should choose to so disgrace himself in a desperate struggle for the Presidency. Remarkable, and sad.