Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Health Insurance Like Baghdad Electricity to Bush

Despite the President's hard work, two indicators keep getting worse, the number of uninsured people in America and the average daily hours of electricity in Baghdad. The Bush administration already dropped the first measure. How long before they ditch the second?

The number of uninsured Americans rose over 2.1 million from 2005 to 2006. Over 700,000 of the newly uninsured are children. The number reached 47 million people. (It would have been worse but two reformulations that lopped off 500,000 and nearly 2 million the last few years.)

During Bush's term in office the number without health care coverage increased by 7 million people . Even with CHIP, more children are uninsured today than in 1994, the beginning of the Republican revolution. So what has George done about this for people struggling to afford health insurance? Very little, other than the reformulations to hide the staggering toll.

Through high deductible health plans, President Bush encouraged people to effectively self-insure for the first $5,000 to $10,000 of their annual health care bills. This coincidentally saved businesses providing health insurance as a benefit, 30 to 40% compared to traditional plans.

But he wants to do more. His $15,000 tax credit to purchase health insurance will drop the number of uninsured 5 to 10% based on his White House economic team's projections. The just announced rise wipes out most of the 5% improvement Bush projected months ago.

How can a bold plan that takes us back to levels experienced the last two years be taken seriously? It can if you're an employer wanting to ditch the benefit, or a well off person wanting an additional tax cut. Both groups should salivate over Bush's proposal. If the employee gets the tax benefit then they should pay the freight.

While businesses or unions could act as the group purchaser for health care, they won't pay the bill if the individual gets to write off the expense on their taxes. This could fuel the next cycle of profit growth for corporate America, so badly wanted on Wall Street (which happens to own many of our elected leaders on both sides of the aisle.)

In addition to dropping the number of uninsured by 2.2 to 4.4 million, Bush's plan provides tax cuts for 5 million people making $50,000 or more annually. Does it strike you odd that more people get a tax cut than get insurance coverage? So what's the real aim here, if it's not to cover more people?

The President's latest moves regarding CHIP could reveal one motivation, protect and grow the insurance franchise. Bush's lead economic advisor, Al Hubbard once warmed the board chair next to William H.T. Bush at WellPoint. The President affectionately calls William H.T. "Uncle Bucky".

For those who think Democrats are clean on this issue, look no further than the chair next to Uncle Bucky. There sits Susan Bayh, wife of Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. Their family has been enriched by her sale of stock options the last few years. One transaction in February 2006 enriched their household by almost $800,000. My guess is Evan doesn't want to cut that off. He might even appreciate that Bush 5% capital gains tax cut, netting the Bayh's an extra $40,000 on that one sale alone. Since then she twice flipped her WellPoint stock options for more ka-ching.

Despite having 8.7 million uninsured kids, the Bush administration unleashed a series of bureaucratic regulations handcuffing states who want to do more. One involves making uninsured kids wait a year for their coverage to kick in. I take it some compassionate conservative will foot the child's bills until that happens, that is if they aren't buying generators for the children in Baghdad.