Thursday, October 29, 2009

Get A Grip

Mind if I piss in the punch bowl?

While everyone else is wahooing and celebrating the new House Health Care Reform plan, I have to ask: is this really what I'm supposed to break out the champagne for? Limits on premiums that allow insurance companies to gouge people living at 400 percent of poverty for 12% of their income? For a family of 4 making $88,200, that's a yearly total of $10,584 just to pay for the privilege of having something called "insurance". But wait, there's more. Once you've paid to "have" insurance, you may then have to actually "use" it. Now what would you pay??

Well, that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish, my friends. But don't worry! This fabulous bill "prevents bankruptcy" (that's really what it says) by capping total out-of-pocket spending for covered benefits that cannot exceed $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a family. So our family of 4 at 400% of poverty can look forward to shelling out, at most, no more than $20,584 during the year in a worst-case scenario, provided the medical expenses are ones covered by their policy.

So this means that now our hypothetical family will need to put aside only 23% of their income for medical care. That year. Because, of course, they might have to incur the same amount of debt next year, too. And if someone is hit by a particularly nasty illness or impairment, it could go on that way for years. No worries about bankruptcy now, eh?

And you know what the best part of this culmination of our fight for universal coverage is? It won't even be universal: an estimated 18 million people will remain without insurance. But it's all good. The CBO has given its blessing, and in the end, it's really only the price tag that wags this dog. Parsimony wins the day when it comes to saving lives, because there's lots more money needs to be shat down the Pentagon/contractor toilet to make the world safe for Wall Street. The odd thing is that Pelosi backed off a public option that would dictate fees for providers, and instead went with negotiated fees, which all agree will add expense to the system. And despite all the whinging about how budget-busting a single-payer system would be, there's this:
"The new House bill would expand Medicaid to cover childless adults, parents and others with incomes less than 150 percent of the poverty level, or $33,075 for a family of four. This goes beyond the earlier House bill and a companion measure in the Senate, which would extend Medicaid to people with incomes less than 133 percent of the poverty level ($29,327 for a family of four).

This change saves money. It is less expensive for the federal government to cover low-income people under Medicaid than to provide them with subsidies to buy private insurance."
I tell you, I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning. Smells like...Congress.

Ah, life is good. Now let's see how that financial regulatory reform is coming.

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