Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sent up a creek without a paddle

Each candidate has proposed a health care plan. Have you bothered to go to the candidates’ websites and read their proposals or are you just trusting their word? I have been to both websites – here’s my understanding of what I read:

Under McCain’s health care plan, if you get your health insurance through your employer, there will be an increase in your taxable income by the amount that your employer pays for your plan. If you think the tax credit McCain is offering will offset the tax, think again. The credit is only for those who have to buy an individual plan on the open market at an average cost of $12,000 a year. It is NOT for people who have employer-based insurance.

How would the McCain tax increase work? The average total premium for a family health care plan is $12,106 per year, with $8824 paid by the employer.

• A married couple with an annual taxable income of $63,701 to $128,500 would have a tax increase of $2406 (25% of $8824);
• and a couple earning from $15,651 to $63,700 would have a tax increase of $1323.60 (15% of $8824).

The more your employer pays for your insurance, the higher your tax bill!

But the scariest part of McCain’s plan is that your employer may decide to drop your insurance program because they would otherwise have to pay payroll taxes on that $8824, making an already expensive health care plan even more expensive. This would force you to buy health insurance as an individual on the open market. Any medical condition you might now have or once had would be "pre-existing" and insurance companies will refuse to cover you, or only partially cover you, excluding that condition. Do you have asthma? Do you have COPD? Have you had cancer that is now in remission? Have you had surgery of any kind? Have you had pre-cancers removed from your skin? Did you have mono at some point in your life? Have you had an ulcer caused by the ulcer bug? Do you have acid reflux (which has a very low chance of resulting in esophageal cancer)? Is your blood pressure above “normal?” Is your cholesterol up a little? You will likely be denied insurance. Then, McCain says, a pool of people who have been denied insurance will be cared for by a nonprofit corporation. Can you imagine how high the premiums would be?

What I see behind McCain’s plan is a desire on his part to completely destroy employer-based health care, forcing all Americans to purchase on the open market. It will cost thousands of dollars more than what we now pay, if you are lucky enough to quality. If you are over 50 years of age and have developed some health problems – good luck.

In contrast to the McCain plan, Obama's plan is simple and fair:
1) If you have insurance through your employer, you can keep it. It will NOT be taxed.
2) If you want to buy health insurance on your own, he proposes reforming the insurance rules so you can't be turned down for prior medical conditions.
3) Obama’s plan will give everyone the opportunity to get a plan through a Health Insurance Cooperative (called an Exchange) that will offer, at a fair price, the kind of benefits McCain, Obama, and all of Congress, have.
4) All children will be covered, if not through their parent’s plan, then through SCHIPS, the government’s insurance for children who do not qualify for Medicaid. Anyone saying that we should not make sure all the children are covered has a cold heart in my book.
5) Medicare would be allowed to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies.

The McCain Team will make accusations that Obama wants to socialize medicine; that he is proposing a big government takeover of health care. "That's malarkey," as Biden often says. The oldest trick in the Republican bag of tricks is to call something socialism.

Obama is NOT proposing a big government plan! His plan would rely on the same insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals we have today. He would require that preventive care be covered, that children be covered, that insurance companies not turn you down or cancel your insurance due to any condition you may have, and that employers kick in to pay their part. These ideas represent pretty much the way health care was until about ten years ago before drug prices and insurance started to skyrocket and many employers stop offering insurance benefits. These ideas are main street values.

So don't be fooled.

John McCain is the one who proposes to increase your taxes. His plan would not only overturn the employer-based health insurance that is so unique to America, his proposals could cause 20 million people to lose their employer-based insurance and be forced to buy insurance on their own. McCain proposes to give a $5000 tax credit to help out, but the tax credit he proposes covers less than half of the cost of the average health insurance plan. This plan shows that either McCain does not care about the average American, or he is completely out of touch because his own health care, through Congress, is so wonderful that it causes him to erroneously think that everyone else has the same wonderful health care.

My state legislature is already arguing over whether to reduce the already greatly reduced benefits of the health care plan for both active and retired teachers. We are part of the “underinsured” group because our insurance is inadequate. Presently, they refuse to pay for the drugs the doctor thinks would be best, and instead, forces her to prescribe from their list of accepted drugs, often with less than a desirable outcome. Five years ago, when my husband and I both had surgery, we ended up paying 33% of our medical expenses for that year because several of my tests and drugs were not covered. Through diligence, we save a certain percentage of our yearly income and, luckily, had savings that covered our part of the expenses. But what if we had not been able to save anything in the years prior to us both needing surgery?

I’ve done the math – my husband and I could not afford John McCain’s health care plan. His tax increase would take a big bite out of our monthly budget. And if it were to cause the state to stop providing insurance, I would be denied insurance on the open market due to my asthma and other chronic problems.

Under McCain, many more Americans would be up the proverbial creek without a health insurance paddle.