[This is a repost from The Health Central Network's Healtcare08 Web site, where I write about the politics of healthcare [I also helped build the cool app appearing on the front page there]. It also appears on The Health Care Blog, to which I also contribute as part of my work in the Health 2.0 space.
The $2,500 question
There’s some peculiar numerology going in the presidential candidates’ health reform plans.
John McCain proposes that every American receive a $2,500 tax credit ($5,000 for families) to help them afford health insurance bought in the private market.
Barack Obama says his health care plan will save the average American family $2,500 per year.
I mean, what are the chances?
I suspect both campaigns are shrewd enough to know that “a couple hundred bucks a month” [middle-class citizen's translation of $2,500 per year] is likely to get a voter’s attention. The fact that both campaigns came up with an identical figure is eerie, however. It’s enough to make you wonder whether anti-trust laws should apply to political campaigns.
To be plain, there is no good reason to believe these campaign promises more than others, despite the precision of the dollar amount cited.
Obama’s $2.5k promise was recently picked apart by the New York Times.
Reported the Times:
“Even if the next president and Congress can muster the political will, analysts question whether significant savings would materialize in as little as four years, or even in 10. But as Mr. Obama confronts an electorate that is deeply unsettled by escalating health costs, he is offering a precise “chicken in every pot” guarantee based on numbers that are largely unknowable. Furthermore, it is not completely clear what he is promising.”
Meanwhile, McCain’s $2,500 per person tax credit doesn’t look like much when you consider the cost of health insurance purchased in the open market. Currently employers and workers together pay about $4,400 per person for insurance premiums, about $12,000 for families.
Individual policies–which McCain’s policies are designed to encourage, perhaps at the expense of employer-supported plans–often cost more. They certainly cost more for people who have one or more chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression or arthritis–which is to say, a vast majority of the adult population.
That couple hundred bucks a month you just pocketed from President McCain? You’ve got to spend that, and add a couple hundred more–and maybe a couple hundred more than that–just to pay for your premiums in the open market.
So what are we to make of this? What’s so magic about the number $2,500? Why would this figure stand out in the heads of political operatives trying to craft policies to appeal to supporters?
Hard to tell. But I got to wondering. Let me check a figure here at the Federal Elections Commission website a second. . .there it is! I thought this all seemed familiar.
The most money an individual can give to a presidential candidate to show their commitment is. . .$2,300. Five thousand if you’re a PAC.
I mean, what are the chances?