Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Health Care: Off the Oven (Part 2)

Tonight we continue with Terry McKenna's series on health care. In case you've missed the first two parts, they are here and here. First, two site notes:

1. Later in the week we'll have a roundup of today's Macworld Expo, at which an Intel CEO dressed up as a bunny, and another CEO—one of the few in this country truly deserving of the title, by the way—donned his trademark black turtleneck and showed us why Wall St. pundits have been putting Apple Computer, Inc. at the tops of their "buy" lists. The sound of Michael Dell grinding his teeth could be heard all the way from Texas. Still, loyal Mac-o-phile that I am, I've got a few concerns about Apple's rise toward imperial status in the world of technology, and I'll air them in a couple of days.
2. The sidebar link at right to Eric Francis' Planet Waves subscription link that has been added is in support of his outstanding annual compendium of insight, political and cultural analysis, psycho-spiritual reflection, and astrological readings. Whether or not you think astrology is a load of new age hoo-hah, I would recommend springing for a subscription, if only to get the benefit of this writer's voice and perception on our world and the dangers it faces—perhaps most of all because he has something substantive to say about what we as individuals can do to allay those dangers.

And now, back to Terry McKenna (by the way, when Terry mentions his experience in this piece, take it with a grain of salt—I know for a fact that he is understating his qualifications to write about this issue):

Yesterday, we considered the problem posed by economists who take a narrow, laissez-faire approach to social issues that reach beyond mere formulaic dimensions, and carry consequences that can't be captured by a theory. These are the economists who are supporting the change to the tax law re. health insurance, discussed yesterday. Of course, the group who proposed this change has a hidden agenda – they are “pro-growth” - and so look to benefit the entrepreneurial class above all others.

From my perspective, here is the downside to the suggestion. Sure, I’m not a professional economist – but I am an insurance professional, with years of experience in both group and individual insurance.

To start with, if health insurance is not mandatory, the bulk of low paid workers will not purchase it. And, whether well paid or not, most young single males are not likely to purchase health insurance. So, the money that would normally come into the healthcare industry via premiums paid for these two large segments of the population would vanish. Yet claims would likely remain the same. Thus premiums for the rest of us would rise.

And, although individual health insurance would be technically portable, it would be unaffordable, so after a job loss, the unemployed would quickly become the uninsured.

The result - the numbers of uninsured would be increased by young and low-wage workers (who formerly had insurance) and by young pensioners too young for Medicare. The cost of emergency healthcare for the uninsured would continue to be borne by the paying customers. But, without nationalized cost sharing, the burden would lie heaviest upon highly urbanized states, and within those states, by urban and close suburban counties – and by the hospitals that serve these.

Using an example from my home state, New Jersey - counties like Essex County with Newark at its core would continue to need higher and higher taxes to support the shared cost of the uninsured and the poor. Rich Morris County – 15 miles from Newark at its closest – has many fewer poor and thus would not bear a proportionate share of our state’s costs. Those in low tax states (which have meager benefits for the poor) would share even less. Nor would corporation share the load.

And there is more. Since state and local taxes would also no longer be deductible – the high taxes born by states that try to do what is right would no longer be moderated with federal tax deductions.

Yes, I’m preaching, and screeching a bit too, but it’s hard to remain calm in the face of disaster.

—T. McKenna

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