I’ve written a lot lately about the failures of Obamacare, as has everyone else – and justifiably so. Although the law’s troubles are legion and seem to grow hourly, there are only so many ways to make jokes about the fact that when Cousin Oliver joined the cast of the Brady Bunch there were more kids on that show than people who successfully enrolled in the first day.
So rather than be one of a million voices pointing out the problems, this week I thought I’d offer some solutions.
By way of background, I spent 2 1/2 years at the Heritage Foundation working on health policy, so I know a thing or two about it. I’ve tried to forget as much as possible – it’s every bit as boring as it sounds. But some things you just can’t shake.
That said, this isn’t a policy paper, it’s more of an idea board. While progressives whine and lie about GOP “sabotage” of Obamacare and otherwise attempt to deflect from their disastrous conceptual failure, I’m going to throw some things at that idea board and hope a few stick.
Reset the Market
Health insurance has been tied to employment since the administration of FDR. With wages frozen, companies had to offer other things to attract workers. The tax code was changed to allow them to offer health coverage without it being taxed as income. Those who purchase insurance in the individual market have to spend money they’ve already paid tax on to buy it. So you end up with two groups of people getting the same thing – one being taxed on it, the other not.
This was fine when people held one job in the local factory for 30 years. But with so many now self-employed or working for companies too small to offer coverage, this has to be reset. The government should “level the playing field” and allow individuals to spend their own money, pre-tax, on health insurance.
Roughly a quarter of the uninsured in this country have incomes above $50,000. They’re uninsured by choice. It could be they feel bulletproof, but it also could be they simply don’t want to spend the money on it. This would encourage some to buy insurance. But if they did not, it would be on them, not society. (More on this later.)
Health Savings Accounts
How much does an X-ray cost? A hip replacement? A blood test? Odds are you don’t know because, if you have insurance, you’ve probably never paid for one.