Monday, January 30, 2006

Shift to an "Ownership Society"

JULIE APPLEBY, USA TODAY - President Bush's expected call for expansion of health savings accounts in Tuesday's State of the Union address will likely stoke the debate over the accounts. Under the law, the accounts must be coupled with health insurance policies that carry at least a $1,050 annual deductible for individuals or $2,100 for families. They allow people to set aside money, tax free, to cover medical costs. This year, the maximum allowable deposit is $2,700 for individuals and $5,450 for families. Bush wants to increase those contribution levels.

The accounts are seen by proponents as part of a larger effort to create an "ownership society" in which financial responsibility for retirement and health care costs shifts more to individuals and away from government and employers.

Proponents, who include some of Bush's economic advisers, say the system of spending accounts paired with high-deductible policies will make people more judicious users of medical care because they will have to pay a greater portion of the costs themselves.

Critics say many Americans are already struggling to pay for health care, so promoting higher-deductible polices will leave the poor and the chronically ill in worse shape. Critics, who include the Commonwealth Fund and Consumers Union, also fear the accounts will attract mostly healthy people, leaving sicker and more expensive patients in traditional insurance, whose costs will then rise. Overall, they say, the accounts won't save the nation money on health care.

Bush's Plan, in a nutshell:

--Billy Bob Taxpayer pays a set amount for health insurance each month through his employer.
--Billy Bob Taxpayer must foot the first $1,050 or $2,100 (depending on whether or not he has a family) of healthcare costs in a given year before any insurance will kick in.
--Billy Bob Taxpayer is also expected to set aside additional money (on top of his insurance plan) specifically for healthcare costs.

Now, I'm not a rocket scientist or anything, but it looks to me like this would be a decent plan for people who are wealthy. For everybody else however - your typical middle-class family trying to raise three kids and pay off a mortgage, student debts, and a car payment each month - it seems less of a bargain. Call me crazy, but I bet this plan actually discourages people from going to the doctor. But in this administration, black is white, bad is good, up is down, so... sounds perfect!

1 Comments:

At 1:10 PM, Anonymous SJ said...

I've already heard plenty of complaints about governmental and privatized insurance, I can't see why this attempt at combining the two (well, that's my interpretation of it) is going to be any more successful. I'm completely at a loss to find a good "catch-all" plan for health care costs in this country, and this certainly isn't close.

I'm surprised to find myself believing a drastic change in the system is what we need. Especially when I read something like this:

" Americans generally want their health-care system to do three things: (1) provide needed care to all people, regardless of income; (2) maintain our freedom to pick doctors and their freedom to recommend the best care for us; and (3) control costs. The trouble is that these laudable goals aren't compatible.

We can have any two of them, but not all three. Everyone can get care with complete choice - but costs will explode, because patients and doctors have no reason to control them. We can control costs but only by denying care or limiting choices. " (Concord, NH)

Upon reading that, I find myself astounded, asking why we have to sit around allowing a defunct system that NO ONE seems to care for (except, perhaps, the very wealthy, as you've mentioned) to keep on.

I have to agree that this plan is most definitely going to discourage people from getting the medical attention they need. Being "judicious" is appropriate only up to a point.

Yet another shining moment for the Bush administration. *sigh*

 

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