Posted by: The Last Liberal Gwinnettian | July 16, 2009

Health Care Complaints

Since the House released their version of the health care bill this week, renewed complaints over government health care have taken over the airwaves (and the newspapers, and the blogs, and every other outlet available).

Why?

As a USA Today/Gallup Poll reveals, most Americans want health care reform, but they don’t want to pay for it. Big surprise, right? After all, who doesn’t want something for nothing?

Unfortunately, as we all know, nothing in life is free. Two facts remain: We need health care reform, and we need to pay for it. Thus the conundrum Congress is facing.

The House finally came up with a starting point for health care reform. In a nutshell, the bill mandates coverage for all Americans and offers a public alternative to private health insurance. The bill also slows the growth of Medicaid and Medicare payouts (which helps at least a little bit as far as funding the bill).

But again, funding is an issue. The House bill pays for itself by imposing a tax on the country’s wealthiest taxpayers: 1% for those making $350K to $500K, 1.5% for those making $500K to $1 million, and a whopping 5.4% for those making more than $1 million. That’s the first reason for the health care uproar: wealthier Americans do not understand why they should be forced to pay for insurance for everyone else.

In addition to these taxes, the bill also imposes a 2.5% penalty tax on those who choose not to carry insurance (though those making below a certain threshold would be exempt).

Yet the tax causing the loudest complaints seems to be the penalty taxes on businesses that do not offer insurance to their employees. Businesses with payrolls of over $400,000 would be subject to an 8% penalty for failing to provide coverage to their employees. Business groups are outraged. In a letter to congressional lawmakers, major business organizations blasted the bill, saying “Congress should allow market forces and employer autonomy to determine what benefits employers provide, rather than deciding by fiat.”

Before I defend this bill, I want to point out that this is essentially nothing more than a rough draft. The bill as it stands will never pass both houses of Congress, and the taxes included in this bill will all either be lowered or eliminated before the legislation ever reaches the president’s desk. In other words, people should really stop preemptively complaining. That said, I’m going to start preemptively defending the bill.

  1. The tax on the rich is fair. Callous and selfish as it may sound, they can afford it. Yes, I’m a socialist democrat, therefore my views are inherently colored by a certain near-communist slant, but I fail to see how someone earning well into the six figure range can complain about essentially donating a relatively small percentage of their income to help someone worse off get something as basic as health care. I don’t think we need to start stealing from the rich to give to the poor, but I do think that the rich have an obligation to help the middle and lower classes obtain the most basic of living necessities.Just to put things in perspective, consider this: A couple earns $400,000 in 2010. Under this bill (and again, it will never pass as is), they will be forced to contribute $4,000 to health care. That’s a lot of money. But not nearly as much as the car payment on that new Mercedes they just bought, which runs them about $9,600 a year. Yeah, I feel really bad for all those rich people who might have to chip in for everyone else to see the doctor.
  2. The penalty tax is more than fair. Once this bill goes into effect, health insurance will be similar to car insurance in that you will be required to have it. Otherwise, you will have to pay a penalty equal to 2.5% of your annual income. Those who choose not to have insurance because they simply can’t afford it (even with the public plan option and the subsidies offered to families earning under $88K, there are sure to be some people who simply can’t or won’t spend an extra dime for health insurance), will be exempt from the tax, so it won’t unduly burden the poor. Everyone else will essentially be paying for the unpaid emergency room bills that they are likely to incur as a result of opting out of health insurance.
  3. The small business taxes are also fair. Small businesses argue that the taxes will make it more costly to hire new employees, and therefore will further harm our already high unemployment rates. They argue that companies should not be required to offer insurance, and that it should remain optional. If the job market requires that employers offer benefits to snag the better employees, they will do so. Here’s the problem: I work for a relatively small company that does not offer insurance. I am a lower level peon. My bosses all have health insurance. They also drive Land Rovers and BMWs. I, on the other hand, cannot even afford to visit a doctor for an annual checkup; if I get sick, I have to limp along on over the counter meds praying for relief. Excuse me if I don’t feel all that sorry for those running businesses that fail to offer their employees even the most basic of insurance options.Also consider the costs that such businesses incur as a result of not offering health care to their employees. An employee without access to proper medical care is likely to take far more sick days than an employee who has access to preventative medical care and illness treatment, costing businesses who offer paid sick leave by forcing them to pay employees who are not at work. As for business that don’t offer sick time (like the company I work for), employees are likely to come to work while ill, causing illness to spread among other employees and causing a severe decrease in productivity. Healthy employees are productive employees, thus is behooves businesses large and small to invest in the health of their employees.

By far the most atrocious attack on the House bill (indeed, an attack on the entire idea of the government involving itself in health care) is found here. Having read this article, I found myself compelled to respond.

The author is correct in saying that there is no universal right to socialized medicine. That would be absurd. However, in a country as rich and advanced as the United States, there is absolutely no reason for roughly 45 million citizens to go without even the most basic medical care. Yet the author refuses to admit that anyone goes without health care. Even illegal immigrants, he argues, have access to medical care. He points out that the poor have access to Medicaid and Medicare, and that everyone has access to the emergency room. That is correct (if, of course, you’re willing to destroy your credit rating for the next seven years because of emergency room bills). He then goes on to argue that “most of the 46 million people who do not have health insurance are middle class Americans who have opted out of purchasing it because of other financial priorities.” It is this line, more than any of the other ridiculous claims in this article, that ticks me off.

Yes, most of the uninsured are people who don’t purchase health care because of other financial priorities. In my case, those priorities include things like rent, groceries, and transportation. And I’m not alone. In fact, the great majority of my peers are in the same boat. We must choose between the necessities of life, and health insurance. According to Father Jonathan, I made the wrong choice and I should simply live with the consequences.

I get it now. It’s MY fault that I’m uninsured! Thanks so much for clearing that up, Father Jonathan.

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Responses

  1. […] Read more from the original source: Health Care Complaints « The Perimeter Progressive […]


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