Posted tagged ‘tort reform’

Health Care Reform Is Not About Health, Care, or Reform

August 22, 2009

lego_ambulanceI have come to the conclusion that health care reform is not about health, care, or reform. And this is why.

We already have a government run health care plan in this country – it is called Medicaid. If Medicaid doesn’t cover enough of the people who can’t afford private health insurance or those who can’t get private health insurance at any price, why aren’t we talking about Medicaid reform?

If the reason is because Medicaid is a broken system that is almost out of funds and is rife with fraud at all levels, then why should we believe that a new public health plan would fare any better?

Any real reform of the health care system in America would need to focus on four key issues:

  • Medicaid reform
    Fix what is broken and expand it to cover more of those who need it.
  • Tort reform
    I find the idea of health courts which would be similar to workers’ compensation courts very intriguing.
  • Tax reform
    Employers are allowed to deduct 100% of the health insurance premiums they pay for their employees. Individuals who purchase their own private health insurance should also be allowed to deduct 100% of their premiums on their income tax returns.
  • Regulation reform
    Allow insurance companies to do business across state lines. At the very least, allow them to offer high-deductible, HSA-qualifying plans nationwide.

By giving little, if any, attention to these key points, the federal government is telling us that health care reform is not really the purpose of the various bills currently floating around Congress. The true purpose is to increase tax revenues because government spending is at historic highs while income (in the form of tax revenues) is at historic lows.

This is why the plans, the House bill in particular, have far more sticks than carrots. Revenue will increase through several measures including:

  • New penalty taxes on individuals who do not have health insurance.
  • New penalty taxes on small businesses that do not offer health insurance to employees.
  • Implied increase in corporate taxes on insurance companies will benefit from the plan by picking up millions of new customers who don’t want to get stuck paying the above penalty taxes.
  • New income taxes on the wealthiest citizens.

Will all that money be spent on health care? Does the Social Security Trust Fund contain any actual money? No. Do seriously wounded veterans get their disabilty checks in a timely manner? No.

Again, why should we believe that an enormous new federal social program and its attendant bureaucracy function any better?

Don’t be fooled by all the rhetoric on either side of the ongoing, heated debate. It’s never been about anything but the money.

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare

August 12, 2009

I’ve been jotting down notes for a few days now of the ways I think health care reform could be done effectively as opposed to the half-baked horror currently circulating in Congress.

So I was quite pleased to find the following op-ed in yesterday’s WSJ. Not only is it almost everything I’ve been thinking, it is a case study in how these ideas are actually working in real life.

Your thoughts?

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare
Eight things we can do to improve health care without adding to the deficit.

By John Mackey

With a projected $1.8 trillion deficit for 2009, several trillions more in deficits projected over the next decade, and with both Medicare and Social Security entitlement spending about to ratchet up several notches over the next 15 years as Baby Boomers become eligible for both, we are rapidly running out of other people’s money. These deficits are simply not sustainable. They are either going to result in unprecedented new taxes and inflation, or they will bankrupt us.

While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone:

Remove the legal obstacles that slow the creation of high-deductible health insurance plans and health savings accounts (HSAs). The combination of high-deductible health insurance and HSAs is one solution that could solve many of our health-care problems. For example, Whole Foods Market pays 100% of the premiums for all our team members who work 30 hours or more per week (about 89% of all team members) for our high-deductible health-insurance plan. We also provide up to $1,800 per year in additional health-care dollars through deposits into employees’ Personal Wellness Accounts to spend as they choose on their own health and wellness.

Money not spent in one year rolls over to the next and grows over time. Our team members therefore spend their own health-care dollars until the annual deductible is covered (about $2,500) and the insurance plan kicks in. This creates incentives to spend the first $2,500 more carefully. Our plan’s costs are much lower than typical health insurance, while providing a very high degree of worker satisfaction.

• Equalize the tax laws so that employer-provided health insurance and individually owned health insurance have the same tax benefits. Now employer health insurance benefits are fully tax deductible, but individual health insurance is not. This is unfair.

• Repeal all state laws which prevent insurance companies from competing across state lines. We should all have the legal right to purchase health insurance from any insurance company in any state and we should be able use that insurance wherever we live. Health insurance should be portable.

• Repeal government mandates regarding what insurance companies must cover. These mandates have increased the cost of health insurance by billions of dollars. What is insured and what is not insured should be determined by individual customer preferences and not through special-interest lobbying.

• Enact tort reform to end the ruinous lawsuits that force doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed back to us through much higher prices for health care.

• Make costs transparent so that consumers understand what health-care treatments cost. How many people know the total cost of their last doctor’s visit and how that total breaks down? What other goods or services do we buy without knowing how much they will cost us?

• Enact Medicare reform. We need to face up to the actuarial fact that Medicare is heading towards bankruptcy and enact reforms that create greater patient empowerment, choice and responsibility.

• Finally, revise tax forms to make it easier for individuals to make a voluntary, tax-deductible donation to help the millions of people who have no insurance and aren’t covered by Medicare, Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

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Sadly, I don’t expect to see any of these excellent ideas implemented by the federal government and not just because of partisan politics either.

The unfinished plans in Congress now are heavy on sticks and light on carrots. Why? Because tax revenues have fallen off a cliff.