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Archive for Friday, January 26, 2007

Bush brings health care message to K.C.

President’s plan to increase insurance coverage creates questions about tax implications

January 26, 2007

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If you're uninsured, President Bush has a plan to get you health coverage

President Bush visited Lee's Summit, Missouri, today and introduced his new health care proposal. Among the ideas to privatize health insurance, the President wants to improve technology in hospitals to drive down costs. Enlarge video

— President Bush's trip to the Kansas City area was brief but served its purpose.

After recognizing Susan Hoskins, a volunteer with the Mid-America Medical Reserve Corps, for her work, Bush spent his afternoon talking about health care.

In his first public appearance since Tuesday night's State of the Union address, Bush used a trip to a Lee's Summit, Mo., hospital to tout his new proposal, which he says will help decrease the number of Americans without insurance.

Joined by Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, Bush elaborated on his plan to provide a $7,500 tax deduction to singles and a $15,000 tax deduction to families with health insurance.

Bush administration officials say the plan will save money for many Americans who already have health insurance, and provide enough savings to entice the uninsured to buy their own coverage. The legislation, though, faces uncertain prospects in the Democrat-controlled Congress.

Several House leaders, including the chairman of the health subcommittee, have cast doubts on the viability of the president's proposal.

Bud Hunt, owner of local construction company Hunt Inc., said he's provided insurance to his employees since the 1990s. As his company prepares to renew its contract in the next month, he and his employees have struggled to balance increased costs with adequate coverage.

"Keeping costs low is important when you're bidding against other companies," he said.

President Bush flew to Kansas City, Mo., to push his proposal to expand access to health insurance. In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Bush proposed taxing employer-financed health care benefits after a deduction of $15,000 for families and $7,500 for individuals.

President Bush flew to Kansas City, Mo., to push his proposal to expand access to health insurance. In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Bush proposed taxing employer-financed health care benefits after a deduction of $15,000 for families and $7,500 for individuals.

Hunt doesn't like the president's proposal, as he said it wouldn't really accomplish much. The higher costs Hunt faces would not be reduced under the president's legislation.

Joe Reitz, CEO of the LEO Center, said he was glad to see any sort of proposal that would address the lack of health care among Americans - particularly those in Lawrence. The area has about 14,000 uninsured individuals, Reitz said, many of whom visit his organization. The LEO Center provides a variety of services to low-income people, including immediate medical care.

And while Reitz supports Bush's proposal, he's not optimistic it will be enacted any time soon.

"It's complicated enough that it's going to take a long time to sort out," Reitz said. "From my standpoint, we can't wait for government to fix it."

Reitz said a problem with the proposal is that it doesn't address the troubles that come with increased access to health care, particularly the need to provide funding for more physicians and other health care professionals. Reitz also questioned whether the majority of the clients he sees even make enough money to qualify for the tax breaks that the Bush proposal provides.

In order to qualify for tax relief, a person must make enough to trigger income tax payments. Those who don't pay income taxes would see a decrease in their payroll taxes, though likely not enough to make insurance affordable.

President Bush tours the emergency room Thursday at St. Luke's East Hospital in Lee's Summit, Mo. At left is Jim Hart, of St. Luke's Health System.

President Bush tours the emergency room Thursday at St. Luke's East Hospital in Lee's Summit, Mo. At left is Jim Hart, of St. Luke's Health System.

According to the Bush administration and an analysis by The Tax Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., about 80 percent of those with employer-provided health care would see their taxes cut, while 20 percent would see their taxes increase.

Those with the most generous health care plans would see their taxes increase. A family of four making $80,000 - with an insurance plan valued at $20,000 - would pay an additional $1,500.

Comments

Godot 7 years, 10 months ago

Bowhunter99, that figure of a family of four having a $20,000 insurance plan is the problem. That would have to be a plan with a very low deductible, low co-insurance, and low co-payments, and lots of extras; either that, or the family is a family of four 60 year olds.

The point of the program is that it would encourage employers to shop and negotiate to keep their employee plans under $15,000. That would put market pressure on the providers and the insurance industry to lower costs.

What I am not clear on is whether the $15,000 threshold is based just on what the employer pays, or if it is the total cost, including any employee contribution. If it is just the employer share, the result could be that employers will cap their contribution at $15,000.

I think this is at least a start in a discussion of the real issue: the issue is the cost of care, and the more people are aware of the cost, and the more control they have over how their dollars are spent, the better.

Godot 7 years, 10 months ago

I have argued on this forum before that healthy, young people should opt out of their employee benefit plans and purchase their own insurance in order to maintain their independence and freedom to move from job to job, or to become an entrepreneur. I am surprised to see that Bush and his advisors were thinking along the same lines.

What is not addressed in this proposal, so far, is how to bring relief to the people who cannot buy their own health insurance, for any price, because of their health status.

If insurance companies were required to provide health insurance to everyone, covering all conditions, then this plan might work. Otherwise, this plan could spell disaster for employees who have compromised health who rely on their employers for health coverage as employers move to reduce their health costs.

KS 7 years, 10 months ago

Why is it someone else's responsibility, ie: employer or government to "PAY" for health insurance?

The cost of care is so high because the lawyers line up outside the door waiting for a malpractive suit against the doctors. Doctors pay a horrible price for their insurance. They will order every conceivable test just to protect their hind side. That helps drive up the cost. ANY change in healthcare in this county, even if it is universal, MUST immune or change the way we handle medical torts. If measures are not reviewed and considered in this area, the lawyers will have a hey-day with the taxpayer pocket of the US Govt. for malpractive. But of course, it will be free and the American taxpayer will not care.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

"The cost of care is so high because the lawyers line up outside the door waiting for a malpractive suit against the doctors. Doctors pay a horrible price for their insurance."

I don't remember the exact amount, but numerous studies have shown that payouts for malpractice suits constitute a very small percentage of the overall costs of the healthcare system-- I believe it's under 2%, which I think a small price to pay for access to redress in the courts when there is malpractice or negligence on the part of doctors or medical institutions.

That doesn't mean that doctors aren't overcharged for their insurance-- but that's a problem caused by the insurance companies, not the patients who've been injured by malpractice.

KS 7 years, 10 months ago

Defender - With all due respect, a family making $80,000 a year should be able to afford some type of health care policy. Maybe not the best, but something. Maybe they should rearrange their spending habits. If you were making $20,000 a year, let's talk, but $80,000? Priorities!

KS 7 years, 10 months ago

Bozo - If you were a doctor, would you "NOT" order a test because you thought that only 2% or less of your patients might sue, or would you protect your backside and go further? It is not the insurance companies. per se. Let' s do away with them on malpractice! Outlaw malpractice insurance in this country! Then see how many lawyers would line up to sue? They sue because there is money there with the insurance companies. If there is a legitimate malpractice, then any money recovered should be split between the injured party suing with the balance put into a possible malpractice fund for future use. Pay a lawyer only his hourly rate. Believe me, a lawyer would not like that. They want the big money. The ambulance chasers even advertiste on TV looking for clients.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

"Outlaw malpractice insurance in this country! Then see how many lawyers would line up to sue? "

Yea, and see how many doctors leave the profession.

"Pay a lawyer only his hourly rate. Believe me, a lawyer would not like that. They want the big money. The ambulance chasers even advertiste on TV looking for clients."

That's all true enough, but the main reason for contigency fees is that most injured patients have no money to pay the lawyers. Remove contingency fees, and you essentially remove most people's ability (and therefore their right) to sue.

The healthcare system needs massive reform, and malpractice needs to be addressed in that process, but it is not the major cause of the the problems in the US healthcare system. It's merely a diversion to keep us from addressing the really serious problems.

Godot 7 years, 10 months ago

The statement in this article that a family earning $80,000 would have $20,000 in benefits and have to pay $1500 is pure fabrication!!! Where does the LJW get off making up such bunk and printing it as gospel so that Defender can be upset about it?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

I may be wrong, but if you don't make enough money to itemize deductions, then this will do you absolutely no good. That very likely includes at least 90% of all those who have no insurance now.

janeyb 7 years, 10 months ago

In the end this will probably just become a way for corporations to get out of picking up a share of their employees health care coverage. The uninsured don't pay taxes, and they certainly don't itemize. Say again how they get health insurance out of this? Bush seems to think poor is not having polo ponies or an olympic-size pool.

Tax cut! Tax cut! --oh maybe a tax increase on anyone who actually has insurance. I really want to see how they determine the value of health care plans. Bet that goes up as fast as property values for tax purposes. The middle-class family is quickly going the way of the dinosaur.

KS 7 years, 10 months ago

janeyb - Why should a corporation have to pay for the health insurance? Where does it say that it is their responsibility?

If you are not paying taxes, you probably qualify for Medicaid. The very poor do have coverage.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 10 months ago

"If you are not paying taxes, you probably qualify for Medicaid. The very poor do have coverage."

There's quite a gap between "not paying taxes" and not making enough to itemize deductions.

janeyb 7 years, 10 months ago

Corporations offer heath care packages to obtain quality employees. Even Walmart offers a pretty decent health care package. Of course the Wittigs and Lakes don't care about health insurance, they can pay cash. They can build hospital wings. Corporate heads would love a way to remove health care benefits from the competition for employees. Yes! They are responsible for the health care of their employees. Yes! They would love to be relieved of that responsbility with some smoke and mirrors from Bush.

Missouri determined that a family of four making $74 a week didn't qualify for medicaid. Kansas is kinder than that, but for how much longer? The very poor do not have coverage. The working poor do not have coverage. No use paying for insurance when you can't afford the co-pays or the deductables.

janeyb 7 years, 10 months ago

And by the way, taxpayers provide Congressmen and Congresswomen with excellent and cheap health care benefits. Why should that be the taxpayers responsibility? Let them use medicaid as they are basically rich welfare recipients.

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