Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Monday, December 05, 2005

Shoot Yourself In The Foot, Then Go To The Emergency Room

If this portion of Bush's tax agenda was part of a concerted effort to gradually subsidize a larger percentage of health care in this country, I could see the logic in it. But let's get real folks, this is the Bush Administration we're talking about here. As such, this policy proposal makes absolutely no sense.

Under the proposal, tax breaks for health benefits for both employers and their workers are limited to $11,500 of coverage for a family and $5,000 for an individual. Under current tax law, there are no limits to how much coverage is exempt from payroll and income taxes.


While the average current plan is not generous enough to be taxed under the proposal, consultants say the high rate of health care inflation could push many plans past that limit and create a problem for employers in future years.
The knee-jerk conservative response to this will be some blather about personal responsibility and nobody owes anyone healthcare coverage. But the simple reality of the situation is that as more and more companies scale back their coverage, something that is already happening but nevertheless a process that this policy would inevitably hasten, healthcare gets more expensive. As more people live without coverage, more people wait until they're sick as dogs before feeling like they can do anything about it. Then comes a ambulance ride to the emergency room, which is a) the most expensive form of treatment possible, and b) on the insurance companies' tab. This causes insurance companies to raise their rates. So as more people live without insurance, more people are forced to turn to expensive, catastrophic care that will not be refused them, creating a feedback loop of bad policy as this very process helps to price people out of the system.

So why in God's name would Bush advance policy that actually worsens this situation? Are they trying to herd people into non-employer-based group purchasing plans? I hope not, because I'd think that this is where we'd see the healthcare market in all of its non-functioning glory. Unless participants are grouped randomly and anonymously by the government (yeah, right!!), the healthiest people will end up teaming up to purchase the best, most extensive, least expensive health plans, leaving people with family histories of, say, cancer (I knew that Patriot Act was good for something!) out in the cold.

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