The Bush Healthcare Plan - Increasing the Uninsured

Despite what you may have heard, the prevailing faith among the Republican leadership is actually not Fundamentalist Christianity. It's laissez-faire capitalism. No matter how many examples of the failures of unregulated markets they are presented with (see also: Enron), they continue to espouse the belief that free market economics will save all. (This doesn't begin to explain the hypocrisy of their insistence on no-bid contracts for their cronies, however.)

With this in mind, it's not surprising that the centerpiece of Bush's upcoming State of The Union address is apparently going to be shifting the healthcare system to private healthcare savings accounts. One of the many obvious problems with HSAs is that the system assumes that employees will have surplus income to contribute to them. In the Wal-Mart economy, that's becoming increasingly rare. And health insurance works by spreading the cost of healthcare out among a large group of people, both healthy and sick, ensuring that those most in need are not those least able to pay. Bush's system, by incentivizing healthy people to leave insurance pools, would essentially destroy that balance, making healthcare more expensive for those who can least afford it.

In a sense, this is exactly like Bush's Social Security privatization plan. Why share a burden that can be forced upon the individual? Bush's National Economic Council chairman Al Hubbard sings the praises of "trying to give consumers the opportunity to be engaged in the process." But don't 'consumers' (see also: patients) have enough to worry about without seeking out and then poring over healthcare industry data they don't really understand?

At the end of the day, these are band-aids on a mortal wound. We don't have a very good healthcare system in the United States. The problems that Bush's adviser cites are indeed actual problems. But further privatization of the system is the exact wrong answer. It's too dangerous to leave the health of our nation to a private pay-to-play system like the one Bush is pushing. The only answer that truly makes sense is the one used in every other industrialized nation -- a universal system of public healthcare.

Tags: Healthcare, HSA, Republicans, State of The Union (all tags)

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7 Comments

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by maximus7 2006-01-19 02:13AM | 0 recs
We Must Have Equal Healthcare
Why should the health-care received by one American be superior to the care received by any other American? Just make it illegal to discriminate against the non-wealthy by making it illegal for rich people to buy health-care that is better than that received by the poor.

If the poor folks get poor medical care, then the rich folks must also endure that same poor medical care. It should not matter at all what convoluted medical coverage plan people may have, or how much the government and the insurance companies micromanage their treatment. If you are denied care, then everyone else must be. Rich ones who try to go to Switzerland to get superior care should be thrown in prison for that There simply is no other way to ensure morality in medicine.

by blues 2006-01-19 02:53AM | 0 recs
Screw the Poor AND Sick
The question is, of course, whether the Democrats will do anything to resist this latest Republican ploy to punish the poor (and to punish them doubly if they heave health problems).

HSAs are peachy if you have a good income (HSA's help  some of it grow, tax-free) and few if any health problems (which leaves cash to grow). Just don't be poor, or older, or unhealthy, or any combination of the above.

by S1 2006-01-19 03:30AM | 0 recs
Tough With A Medical Industrial Complex
Before I go into my comments, I want to point out that Germany, Japan and Switzerland do not have single payer systems.  They achieve universal medical coverage through government mandated benefits administered privately.

Having said that I like the idea of a universal single payer system on a policy level but it is very tough to enact on a political level due to the medical industrial complex.

Health care represents more than 15% of our GDP and employs tens of millions of people at hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, nursing homes, medical device manufacturers, insurers, doctors offices, nursing homes, etc.  These people have a strong vested interested in maintaining the status quo and they are powerful both in campaign contributions and grassroots/astroturf capability.  

I think a quality health care benefit for every American should be a right.  We should make that the message of our 2006 campaign and workout the messy details later.

by John Mills 2006-01-19 07:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Tough With A Medical Industrial Complex
I don't want to get too wonky but I am going to.  It is not that people don't have access to or don't get care.  The uninsured generally get care in Emergency Rooms or free health clinics when they are sicker and therefore use more equipment and services.  

During the 1993-94 debate, one of the big issues was that you create new winners and losers.  For example, individual doctors offices generally win (despite their opposition) because they have an increase in patients since people now have coverage to seek primary and preventive care.  Hospitals generally win because they get paid but may also lose because they get some payments for the uninsured through Medicaid. ERs are a big source of revenue to many hospitals and traffic will decrease.

Pharmaceutical and device manufacturers lose because people seeking care earlier use fewer drugs and expensive machines like MRIs.  

You can play this out across the spectrum and my guess is there may be a slight increase in spending and employment but probably more likely a redistribution of how money is spent today.

From an overall public policy standpoint you have a much better system aimed at primary and preventive care but politically it is a hard sell.

by John Mills 2006-01-19 07:31AM | 0 recs
Health Care
Is still one of the strongest issues Dems have going for us, and we have to leverage it.  Increasingly Americans recognize that we need a nationalized health care system.  Even Moderate Republicans have come around to this fact, and we can even pitch it as pro-business because of all the costs it will save corporations.  

This is one of the few issues we have a huge, outright advantage on, and we need to keep it in the spotlight.

by BringtheFight 2006-01-19 07:44AM | 0 recs
I Am Chairman Of The Anti-Democratic Party
And I have mandated that our party's position on health care is that there must be a $100 deductible for every doctor visit. After the patient has payed out this $100 deductible, the government entitles them to coverage of all remaining charges, plus a full rebate for the $100 deductible. See Ya in '06, suckers. The red staters are gonna love us.
by blues 2006-01-19 08:52AM | 0 recs

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