Dim Democrats and the “choice” Wyden plan.
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What could be done about it? There are plenty of proposals. The best is Health Savings Account (HSA), which extends the same tax-free benefits to everyone and allows people to put aside $3,000 of tax-free savings to pay their medical expenses. Combined with high-deductible insurance, this can work pretty well. Eight million people now have HSAs and it’s climbing all the time (except the Democrats are always trying to abolish them). Then there are proposals to make it easier for small businesses or self-employed people to form their own self-insurance pools. Another idea would be to repeal McCarran-Ferguson and let people buy insurance across state lines. Or maybe we could just let everybody buy pet policies.
But the Obama Administration and Congressional Democrats are moving in a different direction. They want to pile on more mandates upon mandates, require small businesses to insure their employees, require everybody who isn’t insured to buy insurance, fine everybody who doesn’t, etc. etc. It’s all in that 1,000-page bill. We’ll find out after it’s passed.
So now here comes Senator Wyden with his proposal for “choice.” Let’s hear what he has to say:
The various bills making their way through Congress would, as the president explained, provide some consumer choice by establishing large marketplaces where people could easily compare insurance plans and pick the ones that best suits their needs. Companies participating in these insurance exchanges would be required to offer coverage to anyone who wants to buy it, regardless of their age, gender or health status, and they would be barred from charging someone more for having a pre-existing condition.
The problem with these bills, however, is that they would not make the exchanges available to all Americans. Only very small companies and those individuals who can’t get insurance outside of the exchange — 25 million people — would be allowed to shop there. This would leave more than 200 million Americans with no more options, private or public, than they have today. [Emphasis added.]
Did you get that? The problem, according to Senator Wyden, is that the 200 million people already in ERISA plans don’t have enough choices. Here is his solution:
I am proposing… an amendment to the latest Senate health care bill…called Free Choice.… It would impose only one requirement on employers — that they offer their employees a choice of at least two insurance plans, one of them a low-cost, high-value plan.… Ultimately, by empowering people to select the health insurance that makes the most sense for them and their family, we could end up with a system that works better for everyone.
So for Senator Wyden, the big problem isn’t that 25 million people have been locked out of ERISA and forced to pay sky-high prices for meager coverage. The problem is that the 200 million Americans benefiting from ERISA only have one choice of gold-plated benefit plans instead of two. (Actually, many companies now offer a whole menu of options.) Besides that, it isn’t fair that the 200 million people who are covered at work won’t be able to shop in the dingy little market being rigged up for those who are left out. So we will mandate that employers offer a choice of two gold-plated plans instead of one.
How do people like this end up in public office? My only explanation is that Democrats live in such a tight, claustrophobic little circle of labor union politics, pressure groups and victim-mongering constituencies (who ever heard of an insurance company discriminated against customers “by gender”?) that they’ve lost all touch with the real world.
And these people are running the country.
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