It was a common theme at EBN's 25th Annual Benefits Forum & Expo, held in September in Phoenix: No matter who wins the presidential election (still undecided at presstime), changes are forthcoming for benefit plans and administration.

That message was also carried by keynote speaker Meghan McCain, author, political analyst and daughter of Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) who failed in his presidential bid four years ago.

Speaking about the future of U.S. health care, McCain said political cooperation would be key.

"If there's one thing I know when it comes to health care, I don't think that either party has the right answer," she said, calling the nation's system "desperately broken."

"A lot of people think Obamacare was a really good bill, and they really support it and think it's fashioning a new era in American health care; I still worry about the cost of it," she said. "I would love for all Americans to able to have the kind of quality health care that I have. I just don't think that Obamacare is entirely logical considering the economic situation that we're in.

"I don't know what the answer is. If you're referring to [vice presidential candidate Sen.] Paul Ryan and Medicare and all those things, I mean, it is way past my pay grade. I don't know what the answers are and, honestly, Congress doesn't either."

However, McCain did offer some answers to help boost the PR of the Republican Party, which she said is too exclusionary and strict on purity and litmus tests, thus making the party's tent smaller rather than larger.

"I am a straight, proudly pro-life, NRA member, Christian Republican who is utterly determined to pass marriage equality in all states in this country, who believes in a strong national defense and, whether you like it or not, I do believe that climate change is very real," she said.

And while she acknowledged that negative attention from the far right has helped make her a more prominent figure and launched her career as an MSNBC pundit, she also said she was disappointed by how the rancor distracted from the real issues.


Immediate backlash

The backlash against her efforts to point out what she saw as flaws in the Republican platform four years ago was immediate, public, personal and, McCain said, beneath the American people.

"Our generation must demand better," she said. "Actually, everyone in this room should demand better; it doesn't matter how old you are." Similarly, she said, when Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke tried to testify before Congress last February about having birth control on her health plan, the debate devolved into mudslinging and name-calling.

"This party is going to die unless we start trying to change it," McCain told attendees. "And if it does [die], then a third party will rise up, and maybe that's good for America."

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