Bush’s health care ‘reform’ a bad smoke screen
January 26, 2007
For those who haven’t heard, President George W. Bush has once again come up with a way to fleece the middle class, ignore the poor and help his wealthy friends in the insurance industry get just a little bit wealthier.Although it’s still half-baked, it seems that George the Younger wants to take up the mantle dropped by Billary Clinton back in the 1990s and “reform” health care.But what he has proposed would not “reform” health care in any way. It would not make it any easier for people to get health insurance on their own; it likely will encourage small employers to shut down health insurance provisions to their employees; and it will not do anything to control the cost of health care.The plain fact is that most of those 47 million or so who do not have health insurance now will be no better off under Bush’s plan, because most of them are poor, underemployed or unemployed and already pay little or no taxes on what little income they have. So the idea of a tax break to help them pay for health insurance is, from the get-go, absurd, unless the government is going to actually pay money out of the treasury to people who don’t make enough to take advantage of the tax break. That would help them get insurance, perhaps, but the hit on the national treasury would be significant, and it’s not likely that it would pass congressional muster.As for the rest of us, analysts say the Bush plan might end up bringing about the demise of employer-sponsored health insurance, which is critical to the financial survival of a huge number of citizens. By ending the tax break for employers who arrange their employees’ insurance, it removes the incentive for those businesses to maintain their insurance plans. And by putting the burden on the individual employer, it removes the bargaining chip provided by the idea of strength in numbers – groups of people are far more likely to get a better deal from the insurance sharks than a single person.So the Bush plan might unravel the entire employer-based health insurance market without providing any kind of new alternative, putting citizens at the mercy of the insurance companies and the health-care industry in general – and we all know the quality of that mercy.And another thing: The Bush plan would provide tax breaks through a voucher system, intended to provide cash for people to pay for their own insurance. But people with insurance premiums that annually come to more than the tax deduction amounts – $7,500 and $15,000 – would end up paying taxes on everything they pay over the deduction levels. This is bad for people with high-cost insurance, who often pay high premiums due to age, disability or a history of health problems.According to one analyst, Karen Davenport of the Center for American Progress, “Over time, an increasing number of Americans would pay higher taxes as the tax deduction fails to keep pace with the cost growth of health insurance.” And that doesn’t even factor in the ever-rising cost of health care itself.None of this is fair or effective, and all of it is a smoke screen to distract attention from the debacle in Iraq.That Bush has not thought his new “health care reform package” all the way through is obvious. Well, actually, since Bush is incapable of complex thought, it is likely that someone else came up with this scheme. But whoever it was, they didn’t think past the possibility that this would pull the attention of the electorate from Iraq and maybe give Bush a little breathing room in which to pull off his “surge” of new troops without too much friction. And, being the blind good soldiers that they are, it never occurred to them that the smoke screen would be immediately detected for what it is – a bad idea serving as cover for the execution of another bad idea.Have we had enough yet?