Sunday, November 21, 2004

File: Health Insurance debate

This one caught me off balance. Eliminating a business deduction for offering company health care plans was way down on my list of guesses about what the administration would propose. No, make that not on the list. I would never have guessed.

It has been my contention for years that the main problem with health insurance has been its being coupled with employment at all. Of course good companies wanting to attract desirable people from the marketplace should offer all kinds of perqs. I hear the people at Google dress any way they want, come to work when they feel like it, eat free in all the company food places, and still own a piece of the rock -- as long as they get the job done. That's all well and good.

But over the years we have come to believe that the only way to have insurance is to work for a good employer or own and operate your own business (and even that isn't all it's cracked up to be according to some people I know). Besides, if, say, six or eight percent unemployment is part of the economy, and five percent is considered "good", then does it follow that one out of ten families uninsured is also good?

I don't think so. Besides, I had to pay for that famous COBRA coverage between jobs (they didn't name it after a snake for nothing) and I can assure you that they way things are, private insurance is not part of reality for unemployed people for very long. Without a good nest egg it will be crash and burn city pretty quick.

It looks like Bush is set to push for more changes in the tax code, and he's including some features that would make me a big fan if they stay in.
The biggest one will do much to solve the 'health care crisis' - it will eliminate the deduction that businesses currently get for offering company health plans. Link.

"Ken" at Chicago Boyz has his own reasons for liking the proposal. He is more sanguine than I and really trusts the proposal on its face. I don't. The thing is too contrarian to be real.

This is no silver bullet. But just to hear that a Republican plan has even put the idea into black and white is reassuring. We will see if it has been put there as a red herring so the opposition can be blamed for knocking it off after some kind of symbolic struggle (after all, we don't have to guess how organized labor will react if employers find it harder to furnish insurnace), or if the sponsors will stick to their positions and make it happen.

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