Jane Bryant Quinn claims she is vetting McCain’s health plan in her Newsweek column.

The Urban Institute and Brookings Institution’s joint Tax Policy Center finds that McCain’s plan will cost $1.3 trillion over ten years and Obama’s will cost $1.6 trillion. McCain’s plan doesn’t get as many new people covered as Obama’s, but the cost of McCain’s plan falls over time (from $185 billion in 2009 to $64 billion in 2018) while the cost of Obama’s climbs (from $86 billion to $237 billion).

Quinn tries to turn strengths of the McCain plan into weaknesses. “Midsize and smaller companies are likely to drop their plans and tell you to use the credit to buy a policy yourself.” Many of those fortunate few employees at midsize companies that provide insurance, would be able to find a better plan for their families’ needs in a larger individual market. Most employers provide a handful of options at best.

An interesting note is that Quinn finds

…that the credit could pretty much cover the premium in your 20s and 30s, even early 40s, making it a good deal. At 55, however, a couple might pay more than $12,000?difficult for older people with modest incomes.”

I may be biased because I’ve recommended that the state provide a tax credit for those in the individual market, but I’m still trying to get my head around how the individual market is more expensive than the employer market, and yet only the 55-year-old couple in Quinn’s example pays as much as the average family premium through employer-sponsored plans.

Maybe she’ll get to the Obama plan next week. If not, Michael Cannon at Cato has vetted it. Also, a discussion at the Health Affairs blog covers the high points, with a particularly helpful comment from Mark Pauly: “tax-neutrality ? you pay the same taxes regardless of how you arrange your health insurance ? is a good thing.” An IRA gets the same tax benefit as a 401(k), why shouldn’t individually purchased insurance get the same treatment as employer-sponsored insurance?