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October 16, 2008

Joplin residents: Health care among top issues in election

By Susan Redden

sredden@joplinglobe.com

Health care continues to be among the important issues in the presidential election this year, Joplin-area residents said Thursday.

Several residents involved in the medical field were among those who attended a gathering on health-care coverage staged with Barack Obama representatives at a campaign office in downtown Joplin.

Michael Kadish, policy director for the Obama campaign in Missouri, touted plans proposed by the Illinois senator over those of Sen. John McCain. The Joplin meeting was part of a campaign tour emphasizing health care that has made stops throughout the state.

Information from the McCain campaign says the plan advanced by the Arizona senator would make health insurance available to more currently uninsured Americans, and would make insurance more portable and health-care more accessible than the plan offered by Obama.

Kadish said health-insurance premiums have increased 76 percent in Missouri since 2000, and that 730,000 people in the state are without health-care coverage.

He said Obama’s plan would help more people get health-care coverage, while McCain is proposing a plan that would translate to less coverage. He said the McCain plan would undermine the employer-based health-care system by eliminating the payroll deduction on health-care benefits. Kadish said that would remove the incentive for employers to provide coverage and translate to a tax increase on workers.

“I can’t imagine taxing benefits. It would cause people to lose their coverage,” said Bobbie Bateman, who has worked on self-insurance health coverage for several trucking companies in the Joplin and Tulsa, Okla., areas.

According to the McCain campaign, his plan would revise the tax code to provide all families, including the self-employed and uninsured, the same tax benefit: a $5,000 refundable tax credit for families and $2,500 for individuals that previously was available only to those with employer coverage. Families could use the credit to buy insurance or to keep their current coverage.

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