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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Global Competition For Jobs Driving Health Care Reform?

Rep. Paul Ryan's "Patients Choice" health care is little more than a long winded essay explaining why you should drop your employer-based health care plan.
Ryan Q & A Excerpt:
2. Why create a tax credit ($5,710) that costs less than the average cost of insurance for a family of four? How are individuals and families supposed to make up the difference?
Ryans answer: As a result of biases in the current tax code, Americans who receive their health benefits from their employer pay roughly one-third of the total health coverage costs, while their employer pays roughly two-thirds. For example, the average family’s annual health insurance plan cost about $13,000 last year, with an employer paying about $8,600, while the employee only paid about $4,200 in annual premiums. Under the Patients’ Choice Act, all Americans would receive a tax credit – over $5,700 for families – which can only be used to pay for health insurance or medical expenses. Individuals and families will be able to use any overages to pay for preventive care, which can be rolled over at the end of the year.
Ryan laughably implies that families receiving the $5,700 tax credit will experience overages...overages!! because after all they only pay about $4,200 in annual premiums. And he doesn’t clarify the fact that if you enroll into his “Patients Choice” plan, you will no longer be subsidized the $8,600 from your employer. He does not acknowledge that the $5,700 tax credit will defund your employer's sponsorship. Ryan knows this will happen of course because this is his primary objective to health care reform. He wants demands that employers are taken out of the equation and spends most of his time trying to convince readers of the advantages, control and empowerment individual(ity) has over employer-based (group) insurance.
4. Doesn't this undermine existing employer-based health care, and push workers into the private market to fight big insurance companies on their own?
Ryan's answer: No.
But the congressman not only explains that individuals should have the power to make the decision to drop their employer health insurance, he also offers several reasons why workers should leave the system, disingenuously implying that by keeping it, they are victims of arbitrary tax rules among other things.
Ryan's answer: But individual Americans should make that decision – instead of falling victim to arbitrary tax rules or staying in a job only because they can’t afford to lose their health insurance. Tax breaks should go directly to every individual with a health insurance plan.
Tax breaks, remember the $5,700 tax credit? Instead of it going to your employer to help subsidize the $8,600 portion of your insurance, he’ll give the tax credit to you. What happens to the employers premium co-pay? Poof! It disappears. Congressman Ryan of course doesn’t say it like this and consistently avoids the connection.

Except single-payer, there can be no doubt that the core objective of the other health care plans is to remove employers from the health care equation - one way or another. Ryan accuses the public option plan of sneakily dumping workers out of their employer plan over a number of years. While the "Patients Choice" plan is banking on workers (victims trapped by employer-based coverage!) taking the carrot to do the dirty deed themselves.

I believe that is what's driving nearly all of the reform. While partisans from either side of the aisle disagree on many facets of the different plans - they all however agree to separate American businesses from the unwritten responsibility of employee health care benefits. It doesn't compete in the new world order economy. This is where they share common ground.

In my opinion, unfortunately, the current health care debate is not about the 50 million uninsured Americans. It's not about lowering costs or expanding access. And it's not about socialism or undermining the free markets. Those are all tactics and diversions to undermine whatever part you might agree with just to keep the status quo. We've got about ten different reasons and their corresponding groups expressing why reform shouldn't happen and what's left over in the opposition say they like the plan they have. All the reform plans essentially offer the same care through the private American health care industry. Would patients still like it if they were on their own without employer compensation? Ryan thinks so.

Has anyone noticed how businesses are relatively quiet in this debate? While few are advocating against employer-based insurance, none are advocating for it. There's a giant void out there. Sure, some have fallen into the phony socialism scare or Ryan's Randian individual empowerment trap like Whole Foods, but even Wal-Mart has taken the side of the public option. Never mind that they have been unilaterally practicing it by dumping employees into state insurance programs at every chance they get.

Although I support single-payer first and foremost, congressional progressives have smartly drawn a line in the sand by insisting that without the choice of a public option - there will be no health care reform. Without the public option, HR3200 devolves into Ryan's "Patients Choice." If that happens, employers would be relieved of sponsoring health care benefits - and little else. It would be a failure of monumental proportions.

Note: At his listening sessions, Rep. Ryan has been gloating over Democrats voting against an amendment requiring all Members of Congress to get insurance through the proposed public option plan. However, not only does Ryan lack the same confidence in his own "Patient's Choice" plan, his plan doesn't contain the same amendment and never addresses how his employer (us!) will be relieved of sharing the payment on his (all federal employees) health care premiums.

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