Thursday, January 28, 2010

I Don't Quit

A threat? A promise? President Barack Obama ended his State of The Union speech with a clear statement of his personal resolve and optimism. He was forceful. He was clear. For one hour last night, Barack Obama was the guy who ran for the presidency last year. It was a strong performance.

How strong? The initial reaction on Fox News was subdued and restrained. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and Chris Matthews seemed reinvigorated and emboldened.

This blog, Health Insurance Issues With Dave, deals with one particular issue, health care, So what did the President say about our issue last night? The quick answer – not too much.

Thirty-two minutes into his speech, President Obama touched upon health care. He mentioned that he had gotten close to passing legislation. He noted that his plan was not politically popular. He admitted that they, he and the Democrats in Congress, had handled this badly. He acknowledged emerging trust issues. He dared the Republicans to offer alternate suggestions. But that’s it.

There were no specific goals. No mention of shared sacrifice. No direction. And in the end, at no point did President Obama take the time to explain what he was going to do to make changes in our health care system more possible, productive and palpable. He threw the ball back to Congress where the Democrats will muck it up and the Republicans will dig in their heels.

President Obama said that he won’t quit. Great. I don’t want him to quit. I want him to start.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Crossing The Line

“They’re doing it behind closed doors!” roared Susan Robinson. “Did you hear Nancy Pelosi say that the promise of transparency was just campaign talk?”

A lifelong resident of Bay Village, a lifelong Republican, Susan Robinson (yeah, yeah, yeah I changed her name) registered as a Democrat in the spring of 2008 and voted for Hillary Clinton in the Ohio primary. It is one thing to cross party lines and to cast one’s ballot, in the privacy of the voting booth, for a member of the other party. Susan Robinson did more. She publicly self-identified as a Democrat. She has the junk mail to prove it. And now she is a sort-of Democrat, a sort-of Republican, and totally ticked off.

Disillusioned and betrayed, Susan Robinson and countless others voted for change. It was as if the voters approved Issue 6 to reorganize Cuyahoga County government and then installed Jimmy Dimora as the new chief executive.

The latest news, appropriately for this discussion leaked by a nameless Democratic official, is that the President, the Senate and the House may have reached a compromise on the plan to tax so-called “Cadillac” health plans. As always, the words compromise means that the House caved. The deal is that the tax would be on family plans that cost $24,000 per year instead of $23,000. The other part of the deal is that the employees of state and local governments and all union employees would be exempt until 2017.

Feel free to take a moment to reread the last sentence. Do you understand why a tax should apply to everyone but state and local government employees and members of a union? Neither do I. Will the law specify which unions are official skip the tax unions or will any old union do? Can we form our own unions? Can each of us create our own unique, self-contained, tax avoiding union?

We’ve now crossed the line from short-sighted and ill-advised to just plain dumb. Divisive, too.

Please, somebody tell me, what happened to helping the working poor acquire affordable health insurance?


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Opposites Attract

“Goals. Why do you keeping harping about goals, Dave? The President said that we are going to cover the uninsured, make health care affordable, and we can keep our current insurance. Aren’t those the goals?”

Those are goals. In that same vein, I would like to start each day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

Real goals, well defined and achievable, are in short supply. This past Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer illustrated our current goal-less struggle.

Let’s begin on Page 5 of Section A. A Chicago Tribune story entitled “Health bills can sink even those insured” comes with a picture of a kindly older gentleman helping out at a Christmas pageant. Even though he has insurance, he is getting clobbered with the copayments from his prescriptions following his heart transplant. Forget the fact that what Mr. Fraas really needed was disability insurance because his real problem is a lack of income, the theme of the article can be found in this sentence: “Meanwhile, Fraas learned that even with good insurance, medical care can break a family’s bank.”

We have heard before how unfair it is for unhealthy people to also suffer financially. So it must be safe to say that one of our goals is really comprehensive coverage that totally protects a family, NO MATTER WHAT.

Not so fast.

On Page 2 of Section G that same Plain Dealer had “A less than-honest policy is taxing” written by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. This editorial page article discusses one of the more controversial details of the recently passed Senate bill, the tax on so-called Cadillac health plans. An excise tax of 40% will be imposed on family policies that cost more than $23,000 per year and individual plans in excess of $700 per month.

The Joint Committee on Taxation projects that this tax will generate over $150 billion over the next ten years. How? The deep thinkers behind this scheme think that your boss will refuse to pay this tax, buy a cheaper insurance policy, and since he or she just saved so much money, you will get a raise! The government will collect billions of dollars in new income tax. You will be forced to migrate to a health insurance policy with higher deductibles and copayments. You will be forced to become a better consumer.

So our goal is to have consumers (us) pay more of our health care expenses?

What do Hollywood romantic comedies and bad legislation have in common? The plot lines always revolve around the theory that opposites attract. Just because I really enjoyed Bruce Willis and Cybil Sheppard in Moonlighting, doesn’t mean I can suspend my disbelief about this bill.