Richard Burr’s Every American Insured Health Act: The Title Is As Creative As the Bill

 The future of health insurance looks pretty good from Richard Burr's perspective.  Our junior senator has proposed a bill that he thinks will offer everyone medical coverage.  He would tax health benefits that employees currently receive tax-free as part of their compensation and use that revenue to offer tax credits for health expenses.  Those would total up to $2,160 for individuals and $5,400 for families.  I'll wait while you finish laughing.  That wouldn't cover even the premiums my small family pays, much less all the expenses beyond those.

Clearly this would spell the end of employer-based health coverage, and it solves nothing.  With no employment benefits to tax, there'd be no revenue for the utterly ridiculous tax credits that wouldn't cover anything anyway.  I'll hand one to Burr, it's a paean to the underlying status quo.  It does nothing to reduce the ginormous cost of private health insurance, and guarantees the insurers brisk business.  Of course, they'll have to market their plans more widely and aggressively, so the costs could conceivably rise.  But that's okay, the point is to keep everything rolling along the way it is, and pretend you've actually done something for someone.  In truth, he's doing something for those who have long done for him.

Burr is a longtime friend of the health-care industry. Health-care professionals have been, as an industry, the top donors to his federal campaigns during his career in the Senate and House of Representatives, giving a total of nearly $922,000 since 1994.

He also received $585,000 from pharmaceutical companies, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit agency that tracks campaign spending in Washington."

According to the N&O, Burr "said the plan would give patients buying power by allowing them to hunt for their own, personalized coverage."  I like the use of the word hunt.  It gives the whole thing a life-and-death flavor, which truthfully describes how desperate one would feel trying to cover even an individual's nut at these paltry sums.  Talk about adding insult to outrage, it would hurt chronically ill workers the most.  How are they supposed to get on a new plan when their employers stop offering the one they're already on?  I have to stop thinking about this now, I can't afford the apoplexy.

15 Comments

  1. Adam Searing

    July 27, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Yep – since the average cost for one year of health coverage – at the discount an employer gets no less – is $4000 for an individual and $10,000 for a family, taxing benefits people get now and giving a tax credit for half the cost of a discount plan has got to be one of the dumber ideas out there.

  2. Joseph Coletti

    July 27, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Yesterday, Annette Plummer complained about switching insurance and doctors. Sen. Burr offers a way to make insurance more portable and you complain that he’s undermining the employer based system.

    The employer based system is an artifact of wage controls and is crumbling on its own as traditional insurance becomes more expensive through mandates and overinsurance. Economists agree that the tax exemption should be repealed – it is an economically inefficient subsidy worth more to high income earners.

    As for the amount of insurance a family can purchase for $5,400, check ehealthinsurance.com to see just how many plans in North Carolina are available for less. A quick check showed that a 40-year-old male and 35-year-old female with a 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter living in downtown Raleigh could get an HSA plan with a $5,150 family deductible and out-of-pocket limit for $3,869 a year through Humana. See for yourself.

  3. Phil Burton

    July 27, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    The purpose of taxing goods or services often is twofold: 1) raised needed revenue, and/or 2) to discourage use of a product or service.

    There is a proposal to raise the cigarette tax in North Carolina to $0.75 per pack. The purpose is to increase the cost of cigarettes and to hopefully discourage youths from smoking by making them too expensive.

    A tax on medical benefits would have the same effect for workers. When the amount of taxes paid increases relative to medical benefits received, the net effect is to discourage employees from participating in a company medical insurance plan. End result: those without health insurance will rise, not decrease.

    I had to make that decision 30 years ago while living in Florida. My family went without medical insurance until my sons were in high school.

    My experience with Humana has been that they pay the least of any provider and are most restrictive on choosing doctors and hospitals. My brief experience with them, again in Florida, was that I paid my insurance policy and then had to pay 100% of all medical bills and medicine. Why bother with insurance? I changed plans after one year and have never looked at them again as a serious provider. I would caution anyone wanting to change to Humana to very carefully consider benefits. They have more fine print than any other insurance company I’ve dealt with.

    THE LARGE PRINT GIVETH, and the fine print taketh away.

    (Note: I am not now, nor have I ever been, an agent of any insurance company. I am just one of millions of consumers. My experience with Humana is personal and not the result of a study.)

  4. Anglico

    July 27, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    I was so furious when I saw this b.s. plan that I could barely see straight. It’s just more free-market voodoo nonsense that slaps band-aids on big problems with no regard for reality.

    What’s so maddening is that Brrr somehow thinks he’s doing something important. All he’s really doing is trying to stop true reform.

  5. Dallas Woodhouse

    July 27, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Anglico, please send me a check to pay for my doctors visits. And I will go knock on your neighbors door and ask them to pay as well. That is what you are asking.

  6. Anglico

    July 27, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Dallas,

    As an employee of the Puppetshow, I suspect you can pay your own damn bills.

    But here’s my offer: When you find yourself living in a gutter from bankruptcy after a catastrophic illness caused by eating tainted beef from Kansas, bring your kids and come see me. I will help even you.

    The broader issue, of course, is that there are tens of millions who find themselves exactly in those circumstances and don’t know where to turn. So yes, I am asking that “we” pool our resources as a compassionate society to help those most in need.

    Your philosophy is YOYO. You’re on your own. Mine is WITT, we’re in this together.

  7. sturner

    July 27, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    Well done, Dallas. It’s good to get a glimpse into the dark heart of the free market fundamentalists now and then. It reminds the rest of us how fundamentally cruel your vision of society is. Forget all the public policy BS; the only policy that matters is the accumulation of personal wealth. Bottom line: it is not your concern if people are sick, or poor, or uneducated. You won’t find the Sermon on the Mount or the Beatitudes in any business plan. I still don’t get why the conservative Christians allow themselves to be used to further such an un-Christian agenda.

  8. krm0517

    July 30, 2007 at 11:28 am

  9. Pat Lackey

    July 30, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    We must stop all efforts by Richard Burr to tax hardworking taxpayers insurance benefits as income to pay for insurance for people that choose not to work. It’s time to bring Richard Burr home. One more republican that has turned democrat when they get into office. Richard Burr no longer represents conservative views and he no longer deserves our vote.

  10. Pat Lackey

    July 30, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    We must stop all efforts by Richard Burr to tax hardworking taxpayers insurance benefits as income to pay for insurance for people that choose not to work. It’s time to bring Richard Burr home. One more republican that has turned democrat when they get into office. Richard Burr no longer represents conservative views but has changed to a socialist style government.

  11. Pat Lackey

    July 30, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    We must stop all efforts by Richard Burr to tax hardworking taxpayers insurance benefits as income to pay for insurance for people that choose not to work. It’s time to bring Richard Burr home. One more republican that has turned democrat when they get into office.

  12. Riskable

    August 1, 2007 at 10:25 pm

    Dallas, you need to stop and re-examine your position on health care. There’s three completely selfish reasons why an ethical egoist such as yourself should support a single-payer health care system:

    1) Economic barriers cannot stop the spread of disease. “All the money in the world” won’t stop the poor from infecting the rich–unless you spend it on keeping the poor as healthy as possible.

    2) The more people that pay into a single system the cheaper everything gets (economies of scale). A private health insurance company negotiating on behalf or a million subscribers only has so much bargaining power. The bargaining power of an entire nation is several orders of magnitude more

    3) Treating everyone early and often is cheaper than treating them late and in emergencies. If you can only afford catastrophic health insurance (i.e. most HSA plans) you’ll only end up getting health care in a catastrophe. The old axiom still holds true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

    There are many other reasons why a single-payer system is better but I won’t go into detail. There’s only one reason to keep our current system and that is so that we don’t have to deal with a flood of unemployed health insurance industry workers. It would be a short-term pain for long-term gain.

    Also remember that the “problem” with health care in this country isn’t that it is expensive. It is that it has become so expensive that tens of millions don’t have it and over three million people a year are going bankrupt as a result. How would you like to pay? Via severe economic damage or via marginally higher taxes?

    -Riskable
    http://riskable.com
    “Debt and freedom are opposites.”

  13. Amwidkle

    August 4, 2007 at 1:04 am

    Right now health insurance is largely (65%) employer-based, and virtually everyone, conservatives and liberals, agree that the system is broken. Costs are skyrocketing, and millions are uninsured.

    So we are left with two choices – move towards socialization (i.e. the way education is done) or move towards privatization (i.e. the way auto, house, and life insurance are done). Let us weigh the costs and benefits of both.

    The idea of universal health insurance coverage provided by the government is appealing, and is the standard in the Scandinavian social democracies and many other European countries. However, it is unrealistic for America. Our government is too corrupt to successfully implement health care for all Americans. Most of the additional money collected to fund this program would be diverted to fund the national health care beaurocracy and never end up in the hands of those who need it most. Why do I believe this? Let us examine our education system.

    Our government provides universal education, yet large segments of the population remain uneducated, the cost-per-student ratio of public education is nearly twice that of private education (as admitted by the Dept. of Ed. – economies of scale do not work here), and teachers are among the worst-paid professionals. Meanwhile, 5,000 beaurocrats are employed in the unnecessary Dept. of Ed. I am fortunate to attend a good (albeit overcrowded) public high school, but many other students are not so fortunate.

    Under a single-payer health care system, it is very likely that taxes and/or the national debt would increase (in these countries the income tax is 50% or higher), competition would be crushed, doctors would earn less, the quality of health care would decrease, and yet large segments of the population would remain uninsured.

    So, let us examine moving towards privatization. Privatized auto, house, and life insurance are standard. Few people complain about these insurance schemes, so why not encourage privatized health insurance? And if you support a single-payer system for health insurance, why not support a single-payer system for these other forms of insurance?

    Competition in a free market is far better at controlling costs and ensuring quality than an economy of scale in a socialized market.

    As the baby-boomer generation ages, the government is already finding it increasingly hard to pay for the “for-granted” Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid entitlement programs. Adding universal health care to the litany of governmental responsibilities will only increase taxes and/or the national debt, and add another area of society to collapse when the bills become due.

    I apologize for the long, rambling post.

  14. [...] I really don’t understand how our Senator Richard Burr doesn’t get more grief for his boneheaded proposals on major policy issues.  Last year it was a health care reform plan that instituted new taxes on health benefits.  Even his own party deep-sixed that one before it got out of the gate.  Today it’s an alternative for the economic stimulus package that just got through the House (with Bush praising it along with House leaders).  Burr would replace the “tax rebates of up to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for married couples, plus $300 per child” with a ten day sales tax holiday in April.  Uh, yeah Richard.  That sounds like just what I’d like to have instead of $600 in my pocket.  A few bucks off some new slacks from Sears.  I know Burr raises more money from big business than almost anyone else, but come on – doesn’t even the most bought-off politician have to put forward proposals that meet the laugh test at the very least?  Burr would do better to focus on his latest effort, the Chimp Protection Bill. [...]

  15. JD

    April 10, 2008 at 9:44 am

    The idea that the collective bargaining of the Federal Government for health insurance for each citizen will lower costs has at least on major flaw. For the sake of illustration, let us imagine that there are 3 insurance companies in the US all giving bids to the government for the lowest cost plan. Of course the low cost gets the bid. The only problem is, what do the other insurance companies do? Since they did not get the bid, they have to close down. A company is not able to operate without revenue. Then the next year rolls around and the whole thing is put up for bids again. This time there is only one company left. That is called a monopoly. They are then able to charge whatever they want.

    If we do come up with some sort of national care, I believe the best solution is to force a $2000 family deductable on each family. This would discourage unneeded trips to the doctor and encourage healthy living. Now I understand $2000 is a lot of money to come up with, but if a family needed no medical care, then they would not have to spend it. If they did have something happen, and needed medical care and absolutely could not pay for it, then I believe there is a place to knock on the neighbors door and ask for help. We see that in small town America all the time. When someone gets cancer, we have a benefit for them and the neighbors (even strangers) come out and donate. Ironically, the government doesn’t even force this. A forced tax is not charity because there is no choice in the matter. I do agree that we should help each other, but lets start doing it right now, tax or no tax, lets go to the benefits. Lets send an anomous donation to our sick neighbor. Yes, if we are in this together, lets start today- we do not need the governments help to start charity today!