Why Force the Poor into Subsidizing Insurance Companies?

HDR-clusterfuckThis health insurance reform bill has sunk to a level that makes me wonder why all the huge corporations in the country don’t line up in front of the white house on Halloween, with bags, dressed as burglars, yelling trick or treat! The Baucus plan is yet another corporate welfare program masquerading as public welfare policy. If this is the plan that goes forward from here, we all should be working hard to defeat it. It just makes me want to scream. What on earth is going on with the Democrats these days?

WaPo columnist Ruth Marcus talked to Ron Wyden about health care reform (as compared to health insurance industry subsidies) and concludes we should all listen up! I liked the information because we’ve had the ongoing discussion here on The Confluence about those of us bitter knitters that aren’t exactly on the Goldman Sachs bonus plan that will be forced into paying for something we can’t afford now. Just how’s this latest scheme going to work for the nation’s poor? Isn’t being poor enough problem with out your own government punishing you for it?

Now, a family earning three times the poverty level — $66,150 for a family of four — would have to pay up to 13 percent of their income for health insurance. And that’s just the premiums — not counting deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket expenses.

“I don’t know very many working-class families who you can look in the eyes and say: ‘Do you have that kind of money in your checking account?’ — because they don’t,” Wyden told me.

Those without coverage would face a fine of as much as $3,800, unless costs exceeded 10 percent of their income, in which case they would be given an “affordability exemption.” In other words, they wouldn’t have insurance, but at least they wouldn’t be penalized for it.

“Folks are having trouble affording coverage that meets their families’ needs now. And they have been hearing from the White House and Congress that they’re going to get health-care security,” Wyden said.

If the Baucus proposal passes, he said, “They’re going to say, ‘Huh? Health-care security means I pay a whole lot more than I’m paying today or I get to be exempt from it, or I pay a penalty?’ They’re not going to say that meets the definition of health-care security.”

So, let’s get this straight. We’re going to fine poor people to subsidize the second most expensive payment mechanism in the world and I might add, a highly profitable payment mechanism for the highly profitable insurance industry? Excuse me, but I think this makes Max Bacchus look like the Grinch that stole food from babies’ mouths. What’s the point of working or reporting income at all, if all you’re going to do is get taxed for not being able to afford the 37th best health care system in the world with the number two price tag? Why not just sit home and go for the medicaid option?

The “hardship exemption,” he said, is “a big congressional punt.” The people most in need of insurance — those in their late 50s and early 60s — will end up saying, as Wyden put it, “I’m just as uninsured as I was before I heard all the politicians speak.”

On choice, Wyden argues, the White House and congressional plans have defined eligibility for the new insurance exchanges so narrowly that the vast majority of Americans won’t be allowed to participate.

For all the hullabaloo over the public option, the reality is that most Americans would not be eligible to choose even a private option. In an effort to avoid destabilizing employer-sponsored health care, the exchanges will be open only to the uninsured and small businesses.

“Nobody ever told the folks carrying the public-option signs all over America that 85 percent wouldn’t even get to choose it,” Wyden said. “For hundreds of millions of people, they’re going to have no more leverage after this bill passes than they do today. They work in some company, some person they don’t know in the human resources department decides what’s good for them. Nothing has changed.”

There are reasonable explanations for why Wyden’s colleagues and the White House made the choices they did. A price tag of more than $1 trillion for a more generous subsidy package induced sticker shock — though the cost ought not to have been surprising.

So, let me ask this question. Why are we supposed to support any of this? What is in it for any one but the President who gets to say he did something and the insurance companies who get windfall profits that would make the CEO of Chevron Exxon blush?

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