Sunday, January 21, 2007

No Gold for You

This week in his State of the Union speech, the president is set to outline a new plan which would be aimed at helping to provide health insurance coverage for people who have none. According to an article reprinted in the Seattle Times, “The basic concept of the president's health-care plan is that employer-provided insurance, now treated as a fringe benefit exempt from taxation, no longer would be entirely tax-free. Workers could be taxed if their coverage exceeded limits set by the government.” In the president’s plan, “The administration would cap the amount of benefits that can remain tax-free at $15,000 for a family and $7,500 for an individual; anyone whose health insurance cost more than the cap would pay tax on the difference. The cap also would be used to establish the amount of the new deduction for people who lack coverage. In this example, a family buying insurance could take a $15,000 deduction — even if the insurance cost less.”

OK. So the federal government wants to tax the difference between the $15,000 cap and whatever the excess cost is. I guess this is like allowing a certain amount of income to be untaxed, but when you earn more than that amount, you have to pay tax on the difference. I get that. I don’t like that if my insurance cost goes up, which it has every year, I’ll soon be paying tax on the difference. But I get it. Apparently, the tax revenue generated is supposed to offset the cost of the next part of the plan, the tax deduction for people who have to purchase their own insurance. The way I understand it, if I bought my own health insurance instead of getting it through work, no matter how little it cost, I could claim a $15,000 deduction on my income taxes. However, I’d venture to guess that most people who don’t get insurance through work either can’t afford what their employer offers or they aren’t offered insurance at all. If the former is the case, these people can’t afford an outside plan either. If the latter is the case, they probably are not paid enough to even consider buying insurance on their own. In either situation, a tax deduction won’t do them any good because they likely already have enough deductions to make their adjusted gross income below the taxable limit. Another deduction is not going to put more money in their pockets to be able to buy health insurance.

What this plan sounds like to me is just another way of collecting more tax to fund the unpopular war effort.

In his Saturday radio address, the president said that the way people normally purchase health care, through their employers, “unwisely encourages workers to choose overly expensive, gold-plated plans.” Now that’s an elitist statement if I’ve ever heard one. A worker who is willing to spend a little more for the better of the plans that his or her employer offers should not be criticized for wanting the best that is offered. I want the president to show America his health insurance plan. I’d be willing to bet it’s more than “gold-plated”—it’s solid gold, I’m sure. I’d like for him to live like an average American for just one year, with an average salary and an average health insurance policy, and see what it’s like to wonder whether insurance will cover a hospitalization from a major illness or accident.

This plan won't do anything to help people who already can't afford insurance. And it certainly won't help those who because of pre-existing conditions must either pay outrageous insurance premiums or do without.


jettybetty said...

I had not heard this yet--health care is a huge problem in this country. I am just not sure this will help any at all.

Tony Arnold said...

JMG, Bush is adamant that he is a clean and sober former addict, but based on his policies, he must be smoking dope. Or his health care experts are.

You are 100% correct in that taxing those that have health care is not going to provide health care to those that don't hve it.

For what we are spending on the war and what we will spend in the near future and what we will spend in the distance future on the deficit being created, we could easily provide health care to all those that don't have it for the long term, and it would still cost much less than the alternative spending.

Hmmm, spend trillions to kill people or spend billions to heal them. Seems like a no-brainer doesn't it.

Ahhh, but there is the problem, the brain issue.


crittermer said...

Yeah, I hadn't heard about this new health care plan, but from what I understand, Bush's State of the Union address is basically going to be all about why we should continue to pour money (and troops) into Iraq. So I'm not surprised about some of this stuff. Pretty disgusting.

JMG, I think you're really hitting on something when you speak of Bush's own personal "gold-plated" health insurance plan. One of the problems with our country (and any worldly kingdom, for that matter) is that the major decisions are in the hands of the "well-to-do" leaders of both the public and private sector who don't know anything about the plight of the common man (and in many cases, probably don't care, either.) That's why I think Jesus was/is such a revolutionary figure. He became a leader by living among the poor and outcasts and experiencing their suffering as his own. I think that's why we (rightly) get so disillusioned by leaders who are "out of touch" with the populace and simply wielding power. We know how it should be.

JMG said...

I'd venture to guess that Jesus is appalled by those who call themselves his followers but are more concerned about spending money for war than spending money to help people.

On another note, I have a dumb question: What would be the problem with the churches buying group health insurance policies for their members?

Tony Arnold said...

Lets see JMG...

Tax issues, separation of church and state (whatever that really is), pick some stupid objection.

If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.

Don't ask me what I want it for
If you don't want to pay some more
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman

Now my advice for those who die
Declare the pennies on your eyes
'Cause I'm the taxman, yeah, I'm the taxman
And you're working for no one but me.
Beware the pennies on your eyes...Taxman!
-- Taxman by the Beatles, written by George Harrison.

Ayatollah Mugsy said...

I seem to recall Bush arguing for the repeal of the "death tax" because it was morally wrong. Apparently, however, it is OK to tax the ill and injured.

JMG said...

You got him on that one, Mugsy!!