I speak quite often about the state of health care, and health insurance here. So, I wasn't a bit surprised to find that this article is using the passage of the Health Savings Accounts (HSA's), attached to the medicare prescription drug bill. Yes, there has been mention from time to time about the "slow start" HSA's are having, just the opposite of what is published in this article. But the jist of the healthcare overhaul, is shifting the cost to workers, rather than capping the price-gouging from insurance companies, drug manufacturers, etc.
...they want to erect a system in which workers — instead of looking to employers for health insurance — would take personal responsibility for protecting themselves and their families: They would buy high-deductible "catastrophic" insurance policies to cover major medical needs, then pay routine costs with money set aside in tax-sheltered health savings accounts.
Elements of that approach have been on the conservative agenda for years, but what has suddenly put it on the fast track is GOP confidence that the political balance of power has changed.
With Democratic strength reduced, President Bush (news - web sites), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Bakersfield) are pushing for action.
Supporters of the new approach, who see it as part of Bush's "ownership society," say workers and their families would become more careful users of healthcare if they had to pay the bills. Also, they say, the lower premiums on high-deductible plans would make coverage affordable for the uninsured and for small businesses.
Critics say the Republican approach is really an attempt to shift the risks, massive costs and knotty problems of healthcare from employers to individuals. And they say the GOP is moving forward with far less public attention or debate than have surrounded Bush's plans to overhaul Social Security (news - web sites).
Indeed, Bush's health insurance agenda is far more developed than his Social Security plans and is advancing at a rapid clip through a combination of actions by government, insurers, employers and individuals.
Health savings accounts, known as HSAs, have already been approved. They were created as a little-noticed appendage to the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill.
HSAs have had a strong start in the marketplace. Although regulations spelling out how they would work were not issued until mid-2004, as of Sept. 30, about 440,000 people had signed up. And more than one-quarter of employers say they are likely to offer them as an option.
The accounts are available only to people who buy high-deductible health insurance, either through an employer or individually. Consumers can set aside tax-free an amount equal to their deductible. Employers can contribute to workers' HSAs but do not have to. Unused balances can be rolled over from year to year, and employees take their HSAs with them when they switch jobs.
As a small business person, I checked several health insurance providers for quotes on premiums, including high-deductible policies. Now, remember that *I* am a family of 5. My MONTHLY premiums ranged from $1,000-$1,350 per month, for health insurance with a $5,000 yearly deductible. No dental was included. If I wanted to include dental, the monthly premiums rose to nearly $1,500 per month.
Other than my breast cancer, total cost of doctors visits, per year, were generally under $400, barring any accidents. Throw into the mix an accident on the "ice" (child playing ice hockey), such as a broken collar bone, and that was an outlay of an additional $1000.
Let's figure this out. We'll take the lowest cost insurance at $1,000 per month. Times that by 12 months, for $12,000 per year. Then I have to save something, figure at least the amount of the yearly family deductible of $5,000. Okay, so I'm up to laying out $17,000 per year. Before I pay my premiums and put monies into my HSA, I'm getting taxed on this income, it is earned income after all. Granted, if I don't use all of my set-aside deductible monies in one year, I can roll-that over and won't have to save as much the following year. Anyway, that is a total cost of $1,416.67 per month, about $330 per week.
Let's say that my husband and I both work at a local manufacturing plant, both earning $8.00 per hour for a 40 hour work week. That comes to $320 per week each, and the gross yearly salary is $16,000, each. But, before I get that monies, the company must take deductions, approximately $35 per week, each. That leaves $285 per week each. Out of that we have to pay rent, car insurance, gas, electricity, food.
Event though there are two individuals earning a gross income of $320 in my little scenario, one person cannot cover the cost of the "high-deductible" health insurance cost. So, without a doubt, it will be the low-cost worker (which is a significant portion of our population) that will NOT be able to afford these changes in health care, AT ALL. This is also why I rail against Bush's plan, sometimes with much vehemence. This plan is NOT geared to the "little people" the low-wage workers, yet it will, without a doubt, line the pockets of drug manufacturers, insurance companies, for-profit hospitals (remember Sen. Frist -- his family owns the largest for-profit hospital in this nation, and you bet your bippy he gets a piece of it), HMO's, etc. Hopefully, I think you get the jist of this plan, and work to get congressional support AGAINST it. This is not compassionate, it is, rather, for all intents and purposes IMMORAL.