Jonathon's Closet

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Ugh - insurance! Gives me a headache just thinking about it!

About the time I heard about Bush's new healthcare plan proposal, I developed a headache and a frustration that caused me to ignore this issue completely until today.

In brief, Bush's plan is to offer a tax deduction to defray the cost of buying private health insurance, and to offset the cost of this new tax deduction by introducing a new tax on the most expensive employer-based plans.

First, and most importantly, this proposal reveals a deep misunderstanding about the majority of the uninsured. Or maybe not so much a "misunderstanding," as a willful ignoring of reality. People without health insurance are usually completely stressed out about having no insurance. It's not that they need the government to step in and lure them into covering themselves and their families with tax deductions. Many of the uninsured lack coverage because they simply can't afford it, because of a chronic condition or a long ago tiny black mark on their health history, or sometimes simply just because private insurance is damned expensive.

Offering tax deductions doesn't really solve this problem, since you actually need to make a certain amount of money before deductions really start helping you out at tax time. In fact, those who most need help with insurance coverage are those who make so little money that they're probably paying very little in the way of taxes already. And it's not even the very poor who aren't helped much by this plan. Consider an uninsured family making $50,000 a year, compared to a hypothetical family making $150,000 a year. The family making $50,000 still ends up having to pony up $800 a month to afford the average family plan. The family making $150,000 can actually come out ahead under the Bush plan, assuming everyone's healthy.

I don't want to make it sound like this plan is terrible all the way around. For those who are currently self-employed or otherwise responsible for buying their own insurance, this plan at least offers up some tax benefit similar to what those receiving insurance through their employers already receive. And that's no small matter. But it ignores a particularly large proportion of the uninsured population, and it will without doubt make insurance even more expensive for those who need it most: the sick and the uninsured.

Clearly, this proposal is intended to weaken the employer-based health insurance system. This plan doesn't offer much in the way of affordable alternatives to those who are already outside of the system, and it may well end up screwing many who are currently covered, but wouldn't be able to purchase insurance on the open market.

Even more concerning, and a point not being as widely discussed, is that this plan includes some vague proposal to cut funding which reimburses hospitals providing health care free of charge to the uninsured, in favor of redirecting that money at affordable state-run insurance plans. This in essence could end up taking away the very last safety net we've provided in our healthcare system, if poorly implemented.

The condescending attitude taken by so many when discussions of healthcare arise continually astounds and offends me. The question for many is so far removed from the arena of market forces, or "wants versus needs". It's a discussion that takes place on the razor edge between life and death. Many of us already are deciding between that trip to the doctor when ill vs. heat or housing or groceries. Too many treat the uninsured as if we just haven't "explored all their options", or are blowing our money elsewhere and therefore tax deductions will lure us into rearranging our priorities.

We need a healthcare solution that doesn't fix only a small portion of the problem, while simultaneously making life worse for so many. What will I be looking at when the next election rolls around? You can bet that healthcare will be on my list!


  • Wow, I have never heard it explained like this. Time to see where MY politicians are on this... Thank you!

    By Blogger Lemon Stand, at 5:34 PM  

  • When I was a single working mom, health care through my employer was $600 for both me and Louisa. I made $900 a month. The cheapest a place like Blue Cross Blue Shield would cover us was $400. Again, I made $900.
    I wish I had the answer, but it's scary to see where this is going.

    By Blogger Chaos Mommy, at 8:05 PM  

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