Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bush Proposes yet another Fluff Piece to Address America’s Legions of Uninsured

President Bush unveiled his newest appearance of strategy to “reduce” the 46.5 million uninsured in the U.S. A standard tax deduction joins the President’s signature strategy of high deductible health plans/health savings accounts launched in 2002. From his initial salesmanship of “personal health accounts” in early 2002 the number of uninsured Americans grew by an official 4.1 million people. Does this sound like success?

It would have been an even worse 4.6 million but the Census Department changed their formula last year. This magically erased a half million uninsureds in the year 2004. The number dropped from 45.8 million to 45.3 million with the simple change of a calculation. While businesses and government race to shed people from their roles, who believes the number actually went down by 500,000?

The stranger thing is the Bush team never gave estimates as to the impact of high deductible plans paired with health savings accounts in reducing the number of people without insurance. When pressed at a promotional event last year on the President’s health care strategies, Al Hubbard said the following:

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: I'm sure we have those numbers available. I don't have the numbers at my fingertips, in terms of what the Treasury estimates in terms of the take-up. Will that be in the budget that -- I don't know what's actually in the budget. But, again, the President is a big believer in HSAs, and that's why he made the decision to make these tax credits apply to HSAs.

Q Okay, is the take-up rate something that you could check on today?

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Roy, can we -- I don't know where we stand on that.

MR. RAMTHUN: We can check.

DIRECTOR HUBBARD: Yes, we can check

If the Bush team checked, they never released estimates to the general public on the impact of their strategies. The actual data isn’t kind to President George, it even makes his banter look like stalling. But our nation’s CEO blamed another straw horse in his radio program, “overly expensive, gold plated health insurance plans”.

How many Americans actually have overly expensive, gold plated plans? In my experience only two groups have such plans, corporate executives and retired union workers. For nearly two decades companies have been sharing greater health insurance costs with employees via premium sharing, higher deductibles and copays. What world does President Bush live in when he blames the legions of uninsureds on “workers choosing overly expensive, gold-plated plans”?

In a classic blunder, our nation’s CEO compared health insurance to home ownership. Does he not realize the federal government is happy to insure million dollar beach homes built on a flood plain because no company would do likewise? The medical equivalent is someone with pre-existing conditions and no insurance company wants to touch them. But as Bush touts the benefits of federal flood insurance he derides its health care counterpart. I guess the President likes buildings more than people…

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