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Can John McCain Answer Elizabeth Edwards?

Healthcare Issues Author and Demos Senior Fellow Jonathan Cohn Renders a Verdict on the Presidential Campaign's Newest Controversy

New York, NY — For the last few weeks, Elizabeth Edwards and other advocates of universal health insurance have been pounding John McCain on the campaign trail, saying that his health care plan would leave people with pre-existing conditions — like Edwards, who is fighting cancer, and McCain, who has survived it--unable to buy coverage on their own. This week McCain answered those critics by unveiling new details for what he calls a "Guaranteed Access Plan."  He promises it will help people with serious health problems buy insurance, but without creating the kind of government-run programs the Democrats favor.

Is McCain right? Has he found the quintessentially American solution to America's health care problems? Or do we still need something more radical, like a universal health insurance plan--something financed, overseen, and maybe even delivered by the government?

Veteran journalist Jonathan Cohn has the answers. Cohn is a senior editor at the New Republic, where he has written about health care policy for the last decade, and a senior fellow at Demos, a New York based think-tank. He is also the author of Sick: The Untold Story of America's Health Care Crisis—and the People Who Pay the Price. The acclaimed 2007 book, out next week in paperback, tells the story of eight average Americans struggling to find affordable health care — all while tracing the history of American health insurance back to the 1920s. 

Cohn's unambiguous conclusion is that the private health insurance market has failed — and that the only way to make sure every American has access to affordable care is to have the government make insurance a birthright, like it is in every other developed nation. 

Cohn — whom the Washington Post has called "one of the nation's leading experts on health care policy" — has written detailed analysis of each candidate's health care plan over the last year. His coverage has received widespread recognition, including from the candidates themselves. 


Looking at McCain's latest plan, Cohn has concluded it would leave people with pre-existing conditions bereft of good options. Somebody suffering from cancer, like Elizabeth Edwards, might be looking at $100,000 in out of pocket costs — every year.

Sick, published by HarperCollins, was recently named a finalist for both the New York Public Library's Helen Bernstein Award and World Hunger Year's Harry Chapin Media Awards.  The newly updated version, which hits bookshelves next week, includes an update about political developments since the book's publication — and how health care is likely to figure into the presidential campaign.

If you would like to interview Jon Cohn, or to receive a copy of Sick, please contact Tim Rusch, Demos, at [email protected]