WASHINGTON - Emboldened by their success at the polls, the Bush administration and Republican leaders in Congress think that they have a new opportunity to move the nation away from the system of employer-provided health insurance that has covered most working Americans for the last half-century. In its place, they want to erect a system in which workers - instead of looking to employers for health insurance - would take personal responsibility for protecting themselves and their families: They would buy high-deductible 'catastrophic' insurance policies to cover major medical needs, then pay routine costs with money set aside in tax-sheltered health savings accounts.They're shouting "hallelujah" in the halls of Smith Barney, Fidelity, and other money management firms today. Think of the fees! And doesn't that sound better - you pay for your $150 routine checkup out of your own money, and then apply to your fund for reimbursment? How convenient! And, under the current scheme at my work, whatever money you set aside for health care each year that you don't use, you lose! Yipee!
During his confirmation hearings, incoming Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt called for renewing the national debate over the future of the health care system and spoke of 'the transformational need of detaching health care and employment.' Supporters of the new approach, who see it as part of Bush's 'ownership society,' say workers and their families would become more careful users of health care if they had to pay the bills. Also, they say, the lower premiums on high-deductible plans would make coverage affordable for the uninsured and for small businesses.That's right. You and I are too spendthrift with Univera's money. We need the government to tell us when we've been to the doctor's too much. I'm so glad that the "ownership society" involves a large degree of oversight over my personal business. I'm also just so positive that people in shitty minimum-wage jobs are more than able to pay the "high deductible" on those "high deductible" catastrophic plans. I mean, it would be sooooo affordable...until you needed actually to use the bloody thing. The republican party denies it, but it's truly out to change the country as we've known it for over 70 years. They're out to abolish social security. They're out to abolish public education. They're out to abolish, now, private health insurance to which employers contribute. In their stead, they intend to lower taxes to a level that will be enough to sustain our military and homeland security. They want you to keep a greater share of your earnings (and abolish withholding taxes, so that everyone gets the joy of cutting a check on April 15th), but you'll have to pay as you go for just about everything under the sun. Tolls and fees for everyone! There's a reason Das Kapital came out when it did. The Republicans want to reopen the class warfare can or worms and return to unregulated, unabashed capitalism, and pretend that 1848 - 2000 never existed.