Monday, January 22, 2007

Bush Sets Up WellPoint for Major Price Hike

In the President’s continued concern for his Uncle Bucky’s portfolio, George W. Bush will announce a major addition to his stalling on health care reform to address the legions of uninsured in America. The latest ruse involves a tax credit for people for health insurance. Individuals would get $7,500 and families $15,000 in tax credits under Bush’s newest signature strategy to make health insurance available to all citizens. The credit comes regardless of how people get their health insurance, individual purchase or through work. How many employers will continue paying for health insurance when their employees get the significant tax credit?

How does this help the Bush-Bayh-Hubbard politically connected WellPoint? More people will purchase coverage at higher rates. The more comes from the two thirds of those 46.5 million uninsureds above federal poverty level. One third has the means to purchase their own insurance baring any pre-existing condition that makes them uninsurable. The higher rates come from the generous maximum Bush has proposed. Small group premiums in 2006 averaged $3,730 for single coverage and $9,770 for family coverage. How quickly will WellPoint and its competitors increase rates to $7,500 for individuals and $15,000 for families?

If one is looking for relief from the other party, don’t hold your breath. Even Democratic proposals have employers skipping out on their role in providing health insurance to their employees. Senator Ron Wyden D-Oregon proposed such a plan recently. His involves employers turning the cost of the health insurance benefit into salary for two years while employees become responsible for buying their own health insurance. After two years the employer can do what they want, but employees will be stuck with buying their own coverage.

Both government and employers are intent on doing less for your health care coverage and retirement. The question is how they will sell it such that people accept it willingly?

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