Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Even Robert Reich had something nice to say about Bush

I'm a Robert Reich fan. I know Reich is no more likely than I to say nice things about Bush. Like me, however, he was impressed by one Bush proposal...
Robert Reich's Blog

...the only halfway interesting thing about the President's underwhelmingly platitudinous State of the Union speech was his health care proposal. It deserves one cheer for the following reason: It potentially de-couples health care from employment.

Under his proposal, everyone would be eligible for a tax deduction for health insurance up to $15,000 per family, $7,500 for a single person – regardless of whether the insurance is provided by the employer or purchased elsewhere. And there would no longer be any advantage to getting it at work because employer-paid premiums would be included in taxable income.

Get it? With this plan, you can just about kiss employer-provided health insurance good-bye.
And good riddance. It’s the biggest tax break in the whole federal tax system, costing the Treasury some $130 billion a year. But you’re not eligible for it when you and your family are most likely to need it – when you lose your job, for example. And the biggest beneficiaries are upper-income employees. The lower your pay, the less likely you are to get any employer coverage at all.

The current employer-based system doesn’t cover the self-employed – the largest and fastest-growing category of worker. And it creates perverse incentives. It encourages employers to seek out young, healthy employees who are unlikely to have health problems; reject older ones; and push married employees onto their spouse’s employer’s plans...
I still think Bush and his minions would screw this up if they ever really tried to implement it, but I'm with Reich. Any healthcare reform plan that doesn't separate employment from health insurance should be abandoned.

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