Monday, January 22, 2007

Paul Krugman: Bush's "Gold-Plated Indifference"

In today's New York Times, Paul Krugman takes on President Bush's attack on middle- and lower-income worker's "gold-plated" health insurance. In his radio address to the country, Bush said we should “treat health insurance more like home ownership.” Krugman rightly called Bush to task on his statement:

Going without health insurance isn’t like deciding to rent an apartment instead of buying a house. It’s a terrifying experience, which most people endure only if they have no alternative. The uninsured don’t need an “incentive” to buy insurance; they need something that makes getting insurance possible.

Most people without health insurance have low incomes, and just can’t afford the premiums. And making premiums tax-deductible is almost worthless to workers whose income puts them in a low tax bracket.

Of those uninsured who aren’t low-income, many can’t get coverage because of pre-existing conditions — everything from diabetes to a long-ago case of jock itch. Again, tax deductions won’t solve their problem.

Correct. The problem is that the working class cannot pay for health insurance on the wages they are receiving. It isn't like employers are dropping health insurance and then paying workers the difference. Workers are told that their benefits are going to be cut, and that they will have to cut into their family budget to make up the difference if they want to keep their health insurance. If you have to pay $11,000 per year to insure your entire family, getting back $1500 in the form of a tax credit isn't going to make up for the other $9500 worth of stuff you had to give up.

According to press reports, the actual plan is to penalize workers with relatively generous insurance coverage. Just to be clear, we’re not talking about the wealthy; we’re talking about ordinary workers who have managed to negotiate better-than-average health plans.

What’s driving all this is the theory, popular in conservative circles but utterly at odds with the evidence, that the big problem with U.S. health care is that people have too much insurance — that there would be large cost savings if people were forced to pay more of their medical expenses out of pocket.

Mr. Bush, on the other hand, is still peddling the fantasy that the free market, with a little help from tax cuts, solves all problems.

What’s really striking about Mr. Bush’s remarks, however, is the tone. The stuff about providing “incentives” to buy insurance, the sneering description of good coverage as “gold plated,” is right-wing think-tank jargon. In the past Mr. Bush’s speechwriters might have found less offensive language; now, they’re not even trying to hide his fundamental indifference to the plight of less-fortunate Americans.

The public isn't crying for more ways to burden them and give tax breaks to those who don't need it; they are demanding that they be treated with some dignity and granted access to the health care system. Bush's plan doesn't do that. Bush's plan is a "let them eat cake" policy.

1 comment:

Teri said...

Really, what we need to do is cut medical insurance to all federal and state employees. It would level the playing field so to speak. I think you would see a lot more interest in solving this problem if the folks working on it didn't have insurance coverage.