Everything you’ll wish you had known about healthcare after the Baucus bill passes.
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At the same time, customers game the system by waiting until they get sick to sign up. I’m embarrassed to I say did this as a young father-to-be. My wife was pregnant and we had just been offered coverage through her new employer. She wasn’t due until January, so we decided to forego the last three months and sign up after the first of the year. In December, our first son arrived prematurely. He spent a week in an incubator and we ran up hospital bills of over $10,000. It would have been a financial disaster — except that someone at the company pulled some strings and got us signed up retroactively. It amazes me now that we would take these risks to avoid making a few $100 premiums, but that’s the sort of thing you only learn with hindsight — even though insurance salesmen are constantly warning us about it.
So health insurance represents a system of faulty regulation waiting to be resolved. Unfortunately, Baucus is a badly cobbled-together, Rube-Goldberg attempt to patch things up building on a flawed system. What should we do instead? Here’s a four-point proposal:
• Repeal McCarran-Ferguson or at least allow insurance to be sold across state lines, as Senator Jon Kyl has repeatedly suggested.
• Give everyone the same tax benefits as ERISA employees — the ability to buy insurance with tax-free money.
• Offer coverage to those who still can’t afford it by setting up high-risk pools, just as states now have high-risk pools for dangerous drivers.
• Pass national tort reform by two simple steps: a) limit non-economic damages (“pain and suffering”) to $250,000, and b) put a 3-to-5-year statute of limitations on claims.
You’d think with so much at stake, Republican Senators and Congressmen could unite around such a simple platform. National Review, the Weekly Standard, and the Spectator have all suggested almost identical “one-pagers” as a Republican alternative that would erase the GOP’s image as “The Party of ‘No.’”
But no, the legislators can’t seem to find this possible. “We’ve got 40 Senators and 40 healthcare plans and no one can agree on anything,” says one Congressional insider. “We’ve actually had screaming fights over whether people should get a tax credit or a tax exemption for buying their own insurance.” It makes you appreciate what Newt Gingrich did in 1994 in uniting the party around the Contract With America.
And so, facing a terminally disorganized opposition, the Democrats will probably be able to pass some version of Baucus, with Olympia Snowe representing the Republican Party. We’re likely to spend the next twenty years trying to fend off the consequences.
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