I have been following with interest the unveiling of President Obama’s health care plan. It has taken him a while to get to this, one of the hallmarks of his campaign for “change,” what with all the economic matters he has had to address. Still, only a few months into his administration, it’s obvious that his minions have been working behind the scenes on this health care overhaul.
I don’t pretend to understand all of it, but the basic premise seems to be that there will be health insurance available to all Americans. If you have insurance through your employer, the president says, you will be able to keep that insurance and stay with the physician of your choice. He has reiterated this time and again.
As I understand it, though, in addition to private health insurance, there will be a government alternative which will provide competition of sorts, according to President Obama, that will assure that those currently without insurance will be able to get it.
This would include the unemployed and “uninsurable.” However, even if you have insurance through an employer or you are self-employed and finance your own health insurance, you can switch to the government sponsored brand if you so desire. Again, this is my feeble understanding and if I’m wrong here, I expect my blogger friends to correct me.
Of course there is that pesky little question of cost and how your government will pay to insure all of these folks. A couple of ways the president has mentioned include the tax increases he is proposing for those making more than $250,000 (the so-called “wealthy,” which is laughable, but I digress), and making health benefits that you get from your employer taxable. Thus more revenue for the government to use for the government sponsored plan.
So, if I am understanding correctly, if you make more than 250 grand, not only is your tax bracket going to change so you’ll pay more in taxes, you are also going to be taxed on the value of employer provided health insurance. A double whammy, if you will.
The president vehemently denies that this is “socialized medicine” and he doesn’t even want to call it national health insurance. To his way of thinking, it’s competition for the private sector insurers which will only improve things across the board for all of us and bring back some semblance of sensibility to a health care system gone seriously awry.
Critics say that private employers will encourage – subtly or otherwise – workers to move toward the government sponsored plan. And why wouldn’t they? Providing health care for workers is a huge expense.
Personally, I am not passing judgment on any of this just yet. Those who have read my entries here know I am both fiscally and socially conservative. I am skeptical of anything government gets involved in. I believe in limited government and I certainly do not want the government telling me what doctor or hospital I can use, whether I can even see a doctor or have surgery, etc. And -- I know, I know -- President Obama says this is not what he is proposing. But if there is this massive shift away from private sector insurance to government sponsored health care, I am not convinced some of these “never evers” can’t happen.
Still, something needs to be done, so I am willing to listen.
Here are some still unanswered questions in my mind:
-- Is health care a right or a privilege? If someone who is a lazy bum and does not work, does he/she have the right to health care?
-- Why are employers expected to provide health insurance? I am not so sure this is a good system. For one thing, it discourages entrepreneurship. Many people have great ideas for starting their own businesses but are probably afraid to quit their “day jobs” because of the health insurance. In addition, if your small business grows and you want to hire workers, you will have a hard time competing for good applicants with the bigger companies who are better able to provide insurance. Why can’t health insurance be like any other type of insurance and a person just pays for it his/herself?
-- Why does health care have to cost so much in the first place? Could that be part of the problem? I have a number of doctor friends that I love and respect but sometimes their complaining about the cost of practicing medicine rings a bit hollow when I see the houses they live in, the cars they drive and the trips they take.
-- Should there be caps on malpractice claims? With these outrageous judgments against doctors and hospitals, you can bet insurance is going to cost more. And going to the doctor or hospital is going to cost more too.
As I said, I am undecided on all of this and will stay tuned to see what Congress comes up with. The president is on a fast track and thus far his rock-star status has stood him in good stead for pushing through his agenda. We'll see if that happens with health care.