Bush’s “Health Care Reform” Aims to Kill Employer Coverage

As I’ve said elsewhere, the only initiative Bush put forward in his lame SOTU that he might actually be serious about is the health care “reform” in which he wants to address a social problem through tax-policy-tweaking. I wrote:

But the truly insidious element is in the unspoken subtext: what this proposal basically does is offer cover to the corporatocracy so it can decide to stop offering health care to its employees. Why should it?

“Now employees can buy a private plan and pay for it themselves, right? Well, they’re paying $400/mon for our corporate-subsidized plan anyway and the govt will let them keep another $400, so there’s your $800/mon for a modest plan, and what do they need us for? They don’t. End of problem. Alright, so a modest plan probably won’t cover shit like surgery and extended hospital stays, and certainly won’t cover drugs or pre-existing conditions (and everything’s a pre-existing condition to an insurance company, just ask them), but what’s that to us? We can quit paying all that money to insurance companies and put it in our own pockets.”

This is potentially a major boost in the Great Risk Shift, taking a tremendous burden off corporations and dumping it straight onto the backs of its workers under the guise of “helping” them, while at the same time ensuring that greedy, inefficient but profitable insurance companies will stay in control of our health care system. It’s not just insidious. It’s evil.

It seems I’m not the only one to have reached – or at least to be on the road to reaching – that conclusion.

[W]hile Bush’s plan would alter a historic imbalance in the tax code that favors generally better-off consumers who get insurance through their jobs, it also could undermine coverage for some sicker, older people and erode the employer-sponsored system that still provides coverage to more than half of all Americans.

Some experts questioned whether the plan would have any impact on holding down spiraling health costs or extending health coverage to some of the 47 million people in the nation who have none.

“It’s not solving the uninsured problem and it’s not solving the cost problem, so it’s not really advancing what we need to have happen,” said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health policy research organization. “What it does is favor individual insurance. . . . The question is, should you try to undermine employer coverage? Employer coverage has lower administrative costs and it covers everybody in a firm, not just those who are healthy enough to pass a medical exam.”

Undermining is the first step toward killing. This is the same old Ownership Society BS that he’s been trying to sell the American people since he took office. He tried it with Social Security, now he’s trying it with the health care system. The point of both initiatives is to get the corporatocracy out of any responsibility for anything other than piling up profits. It bitches about the expense of health insurance and Bush’s immediate response is to come up with, not a way to lower costs or spread the burden more widely by preventing insurers from cherry-picking healthy clients and dumping sick ones on the taxpayer, and certainly “universal health coverage” isn’t a phrase that’s ever going to cross his lips except in condemnation, but a trick, another bait-and-switch tactic that pretends to address the health care issue while really aiming to strike at the core of it in order to free the corporatocracy from having to pay any part of it. Employee health insurance is one of the most expensive line items in the corporatocracy’s balance sheet, right up there with CEO pay packages, and getting it off that sheet would increase their profits significantly (like they’re not big enough now). Of course they’d dump it given half an excuse.

Bush’s “health plan” would give them that excuse and in the meantime private insurance companies would retain the right to loot and pillage to their heart’s content, vying with one another for the profitable pool of healthy, wealthy consumers and letting the rest of us make out as best we can without them. It’s an ugly scenario the surface of which the Post barely scratches. Barbara O’Brien at The Mahablog points to a secondary use for Bush’s idiotic plan: dumping on Democrats.

Awhile back Harold Meyerson wrote a column called “Master of the Poison Pill” in which he outlined the Karl Rove method of taking an issue away from the opposition. For example, in 2002 the Dems were getting traction on their proposal for a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, which the White House opposed. When the Bushies decided to flip-flop and create the DHS, they inserted a union-busting poison pill into the bill. Dems balked, and the Bushies promptly claimed the DHS as their own invention, accusing Dems of being opposed to national security.

Sometimes it’s more than just a pill being used to poison a debate. Wingnuts still equate opposition to the war in Iraq with being “soft” on national security, even though Iraq ain’t doin’ a bleeping thing on behalf of national security except draining resources that could be put to better use elsewhere while causing more people to hate us. The Bushies tried to pull something like this with Bush’s Social Security “reform”; Dems were accused of being unwilling to “fix” Social Security because they didn’t back Bush’s plan. Fortunately the American people realized the “plan” was ridiculous.

I’m already seeing signs that the Right is going to use Bush’s utterly absurd health care proposals to claim that Democrats aren’t serious about health care reform. There are two columns in the Washington Post today that say Dems are poopyheads for not even listening to Bush’s “ideas.”

The problem with this whole thing is that, unlike the attacks on Social Security and Medicare, this one’s going to sound sensible to an awful lot of people, at least in the beginning. They may not discover for years that they’ve been ripped off again. If he seriously proposes this evil plan, people may actually listen. That makes this initiative dangerous not just for the Dems but for the country.


One Response

  1. […] White Collar Unions Bush’s “Health Care Reform” Aims to Kill Employer Coverage […]

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