Just back from Washington, DC, and saw the discussion on ABC’s This Week on the President’s health plan.
Apparently, it’s in the conservative talking points that George Will was using to simply deny the problem exists, as he and his colleagues also do with global warming. He sought to downgrade the issue of the uninsured, to suggest that since some of the uninsured are only “temporarily” uninsured, it’s not much of a problem. I hope he tells that to the folks who have the emergency, the accident, or the ailment while “temporarily” uninsured, and face the hospital bill as a result–perhaps the largest bill that anybody sees in their lifetime.
But even President Bush doesn’t deny the problem anymore. Yet his solutions take us in the wrong direction. He adds no new money to deal with these problems, and even when reshuffling the deck of existing funds, he seeks to do so in an inefficient, regressive, and unwise ways.
The Economic Policy Institute appropriately lays out the impacts of the tax change, which is to discourage group coverage (through employers) and shift more people to buy coverage alone as individuals. This not only goes against the notion of insurance as the enterprise of sharing risk, it’s also more costly! Rather than expanding public programs (which are far cheaper per person than private coverage) or expanding group health coverage (which enjoy a group discount), he is encouraging people to get coverage in the most expensive way possible.
Most of the articles have been about who is impacted, that those with good health care would be negatively impacted; those who buy health coverage on the individual market would get a decent tax deduction. But the nature of the deduction (rather than a credit, for example) would be regressive, since lower-income folks are in lower tax brackets. The vast majority of Americans who are now uninsured (many low- and moderate-incomes) would not find this helpful, and would not take it up: it would be the equivalent of a three-foot rope to get out of a ten-foot hole.
Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly and Max Sawicky also make clear this is about the abandonment of group health care. And Ezra Klein and Brad Delong make the excellent point that as health costs rise, the folks who are disadvantaged increase, and the ones who are helped decrease.
Message: You’re On Your Own. President Bush would take away the ongoing and open-ended assistance by the federal government for group coverage, and replace it with a fixed assistance to get more expensive private insurance, leaving the individual consumer to face the increating cost of health care all alone.