Epiphanyblog

All about ideas…

What happens to my wallet when health care legislation dies?

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Now that Mass. elected a Republican senator, it looks probable that any health care legislation will go down to defeat. I’m sure that Sen. DeMint was dancing with glee in his office all day at the possibility of “bringing Obama down” as he said a couple of months ago.

Frankly, I don’t care in the least about partisan politics. Ideology, in and of itself, is irrelevant. What I care about is my wallet, my privacy, and my opportunity to earn a living that meets my needs with a bit left over for some fun. Given the current economy, just meeting my needs has become a fearful effort.

So, you might ask, how do the health care bills in Congress affect the needs of my wallet so I can continue to pay my basic living expenses now and in the future? Good question. Well, here’s the answer.

I’m a small business, sole proprietor. My health insurance bill – just for myself – is nearly a $1,000 each month. I make too much money to qualify for assistance so the total cost is mine alone. That cost is more than half my current income, requiring me to withdraw retirement funds to meet those costs. My daughter and her husband, as small business owners, are in a similar situation. To be blunt, the cost of health insurance – and health care – is just too high for us sole proprietors and other small business owners.

Over the last 10 years, the cost of health care and insurance outpaced inflation by double digits. The results of these overly inflated costs of health insurance are numerous:

    • Flattened or deceased wages as a result of more company revenues being poured into health insurance coffers
    • Decreased take home pay of employees as a result of increased premiums
    • Increased millions of American families who cannot afford health insurance
    • Increased millions of families seeking emergency health care in emergency rooms at taxpayer expense, causing a huge burden on state tax rolls
    • Increased millions of small to mid-sized businesses to no longer offer health insurance because of costs
    • Millions of American families forced into bankruptcy, losing everything, as a result of hyper-inflated health care and premium costs – even for manageable, chronic diseases such as diabetes or arthritis
    • Prescription costs that have increased more than 10% over the last year causing many families and seniors to either stop taking their prescriptions altogether, thus shortening their lives, or decreasing the dosage, causing a potentially life threatening reduction in drug’s effects

The wallet always comes first!

If reduced take home pay and huge numbers of family bankruptcy rates are not enough alone for the American people to say we’ve had enough, then think about what these costs have caused in the business landscape. Businesses are not off-shoring just to escape higher wages, they’re escaping the enormous cost of health insurance.

For every dollar the employee pays, the company pays double. For example, if an employee pays $100 a month for health insurance, those same employees, without employer assistance, would have to pay over $300 a month for the exact, same policy.

These increased costs on employers not only hurt employees by stagnating or reducing wages, they hurt American business’ competitiveness by increasing product costs. Why would any customer pay more for a domestic product, made by American workers, when they can pay much less for a similar product made overseas where the employer does not have to include the cost of any health care in their pricing? As an example, if an American-made product is $5, because of health insurance costs, and the same off-shored product is $3, because the company pays no health insurance costs, why would any customer buy the $5 product?

Ideology vs the wallet.

I guess that, for those who have a solid, secure job with good benefits, they can indulge in ideology. They have the economic stability to say the Federal government should stay out of health insurance because it’s not clearly delineated as a Federal power in the Constitution. To them national health insurance for all goes against the 10th Amendment – never mind Article 1, section 7.

And they probably don’t think about American competitiveness because they have a good paying job. But what happens when that job goes to India or Vietnam so the company can be competitive? Will the wallet win out then? Or will they stubbornly stick to their 10th Amendment argument as they sign bankruptcy papers?

Yes, the legislation could be much better.

There is no doubt that the health care legislation under consideration could be much better. But it is a start. Until Americans demand a change to election laws that prevent or make illegal lobbyist monies, we’ll be stuck with poor legislation. Even Medicare, arguably the largest – and most revered – socialistic program in the U.S. was not perfect when it was enacted. It’s not perfect now. However, through the years additional legislation made it better. Only military medical benefits come even close to being perfect.

So what now?

If the new Mass. Senator aligns with the Republican minority, as he said he will, to defeat the current health care bills, what will happen? Will the nation as a whole ignore the increasing costs of health care and our losing competitiveness to satisfy a political agenda? Will Americans continue to choose ideology over their wallets when they see their health insurance premiums rise another 20% in the next decade?

No matter how flawed the health care legislation is, as a result of a corrupt Congress (both houses) and a severely flawed election system and Senate rules that hold any legislation hostage to a single, perhaps greedy, Senator, it is better than nothing at all. It is better, possibly, than a runaway, out of control health insurance market that is bleeding American families and businesses dry.

Do we just give up and let the so-called free market do its thing, knowing full well that costs will continue to rise well above inflation rates and income increases?

Does anyone really believe that the Republicans will offer better legislation to curb or decrease the hyper-inflated costs of health care and health insurance? They had plenty of time while in the majority to tackle this issue and failed to even take it up. During their tenure as the majority party in both houses, they clearly exhibited their lack of concern for average middle-class American wallets.

Remember the reports of Tom DeLay strolling down the aisles of the House handing out lobbyist checks? I just cannot trust them to look after my concerns…or my wallet. They are not the party of Jefferson or of Lincoln anymore.

That’s not to say Democrats now are much better. It seems the Democrats took a profitable lesson from Tom DeLay and are playing the same money game. The only difference now is that some Democratic legislators still seem to truly care about doing the right thing for average American people and businesses.

So, what about my wallet?

Given the rising high cost of insurance and health care, I can expect my retirement income to be gone long before I qualify for Medicare unless the system changes dramatically through enforced legislation. When everything is gone, I don’t know. I haven’t let myself think about it. What I do know is that Republicans won’t do anything to save my retirement funds or my struggling small business from being depleted by health insurance.

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Written by Valerie Curl

January 21, 2010 at 10:00 AM

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