There are two ways of determining where a politician stands on healthcare; read their platform statements, and/or follow the money. If you choose the first, read carefully. The language is as carefully crafted as your insurance policy, probably because it was written by the same people. For example, something like “I want to reduce healthcare costs by implementing money saving technology” (which is common to several candidates) translates to: I want to save insurance companies money by forcing providers of all sizes to spend money on updating computers and software. So, sometimes following the second path is better. Look at where a candidate is getting their money. If it is from insurance and pharmaceutical companies, chances are they hope to make money if the candidate wins. How do these companies make money? In the case of insurance, either from charging the consumer more, or getting the provider to take less. In the case of pharmaceuticals, continued law allowing them to sell overpriced medication in the United States and placing restrictions on generics.
So, how does all this get us to McCain? Well, the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog has a good post on his relationship with the pharmaceutical industry. According to the Blog,
McCain opposes Big Pharma on two hotly contested issues: the re-importation of drugs from countries where they cost less and giving Medicare the clout to negotiate drug prices directly. McCain has long stumped for re-importation to save money. And he voted against the expansion of Medicare to include a drug benefit because it didn’t allow direct price negotiations by the government and because the program covers too many people.
His health-care plan also calls for drug companies to reveal prices of their drugs and to develop a straightforward path for the creation of generic biologics, two other ideas that wouldn’t do much for the bottom line of the industry leaders.
So there is the rhetoric. Now how does that match up with the dollars? Surprisingly well. Again, according to the WSJ Health Blog:
The Center for Responsive Politics reports that McCain has received $39,797 in donations from pharmaceutical manufacturers. That puts him behind Obama ($154,710), Clinton ($140,544), Mitt Romney ($103,825), Rudy Giuliani ($91,550) and even Chris Dodd ($68,200)
If we turn contributions around and see who is giving to McCain, we find:
…The most generous group is the retired, with more than $5 million in donations. And who wants cheap drugs more than the retired? No. 2: Lawyers and law firms, which have given $2.5 million, according to the CRP. (No. 6 on the list are health professionals with $713,952 in contributions.)
So the numbers appear to match the rhetoric, when it comes to pharmaceuticals. However, the Blogmeister took a look at McCain’s healthcare plan. It is very nonspecific and difficult to tell what he wants to do overall. It would be interesting to apply the same analysis as above to his overall healthcare plan. Still, it seems McCain has popular support for at least half the healthcare problem. I’d really like to know, in non legal language, what he wants to do about the other half, insurance companies.