Thursday, September 17, 2009

How Will The Baucus Bill Affect Us?

My well meaning, but decidedly Obot, sister sent me an article from alternet.org recently written by a lesbian mother detailing the additional financial difficulties we face when we are on our partner's health care coverage ("Unbelievable: As A Lesbian Mother, I Have To Pay More For Health Care"). Well, I can appreciate her alarm, but honestly, no freakin' duh. We haven't just been blowing smoke when we claim that there are over 1,000 federal benefits to which we are shut out since we can not be married legally in the U.S. And, big surprise, the article culminates in a call to support the Obama Health Care Plan so that we will be treated like everyone else.

Um, I'm not so sure that's going to be a help. But first, my response to my sister so things stay in context, and to explain why the ire on the writer's part:
Thanks, but I I am well aware. (My partner) and I pay taxes on my insurance through her company since we cannot be legally married. My insurance amount is treated as a benefit to (my partner), thus taxable income under the federal/state system.

Well, considering Obama claims the Baucus plan is the plan he wants (today - it could be different by tomorrow), it's not gonna be a whole lot more in savings according to this Washington Post story, "Alarm Bell On Health Reform":
The Democratic senator from Oregon has been the Energizer Bunny of health reform for the past five years. This week he lobbed a big rhetorical stink bomb. Wyden warned publicly that the package being crafted by the Senate Finance Committee would cost lower-income Americans too much and give many people too little choice of insurance plans.

Under the Finance Committee proposal, individuals would be required to obtain insurance. But to drive down the cost of the package, Montana Democrat Max Baucus's Gang of Six -- a gang that pointedly does not include Wyden -- trimmed the size of the subsidies available for those who could not afford insurance on their own. Now, a family earning three times the poverty level -- $66,150 for a family of four -- would have to pay up to 13 percent of their income for health insurance. And that's just the premiums -- not counting deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket expenses.

"I don't know very many working-class families who you can look in the eyes and say: 'Do you have that kind of money in your checking account?' -- because they don't," Wyden told me.

Those without coverage would face a fine of as much as $3,800, unless costs exceeded 10 percent of their income, in which case they would be given an "affordability exemption." In other words, they wouldn't have insurance, but at least they wouldn't be penalized for it.

Nobody ever told the folks carrying the public-option signs all over America that 85 percent wouldn't even get to choose it," Wyden said. "For hundreds of millions of people, they're going to have no more leverage after this bill passes than they do today. They work in some company, some person they don't know in the human resources department decides what's good for them. Nothing has changed."
"
Bear in mind, Wyden is actually an ally of Obama's. Yikes.

I concluded with some questions about how all of this would affect us personally, including getting in a little dig particularly about the Federal taxes which didn't look like they are going to change anytime soon given Obama's Justice Department's characterizing us as pedophiles or "incestuous relatives" in its support of DOMA. Ahem.

The Wall Street Journal had not yet come out with its editorial on the Baucus Plan at that time, "Public Option Lite," or else, I would have just sent that to her, and highlighted this Obama mailer they thoughtfully provided:



Remember this? Yeah, WHO'S plan is going to levee fines?? Sheesh.

I won't reprint the whole thing here - it is worth your time to take a look, but here are some of the pertinent paragraphs:
Everyone would be forced to buy these government-approved policies, whether or not they suit their needs or budget. Families would face tax penalties as high as $3,800 a year for not complying, singles $950. As one resident of Massachusetts where Mitt Romney imposed an individual mandate in 2006 put it in a Journal story yesterday, this is like taxing the homeless for not buying a mansion.

The political irony here is rich. If liberal health-care reform is going to make people better off, why does it require "a very harsh, stiff penalty" to make everyone buy it? That's what Senator Obama called it in his Presidential campaign when he opposed the individual mandate supported by Hillary Clinton. He correctly argued then that many people were uninsured not because they didn't want coverage but because it was too expensive. The nearby mailer to Ohio primary voters gives the flavor of Mr. Obama's attacks.

And the Baucus-Obama plan will only make insurance even more expensive. Employers will be required to offer "qualified coverage" to their workers (or pay another "free rider" penalty) and workers will be required to accept it, paying for it in lower wages. The vast majority of households already confront the same tradeoff today, except Congress will now declare that there's only one right answer.

Hold the phone for just a second here. Yes, Clinton's plan did call for mandated coverage, but OBAMA was the one who said she was going to have fines, not Clinton, a charge she consistently disputed. And if you want a reminder of the two plans, Clinton's and Obama's, here's a LINK to Paul Krugman's good article in which he highlights those differences.

Now, back to the Journal's Editorial:
The subsidies in the Baucus plan go to people without a job-based plan and who earn under three times the federal poverty level, or about $66,000 for a family of four. Yet according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis we've seen, the plan isn't much of an improvement over the current market.

Take a family of four making $42,000 in 2016. While government would subsidize 80% of their premium and pay $1,500 to offset cost-sharing, they'd still pay $6,000 a year or 14.3% of their total income. A family making $54,000 could still pay 18.1% of their income, while an individual earning $26,500 would be on the hook for 15.5%, and one earning $32,400 for 17.3%. So lower-income workers would still be forced to devote huge portions of their salaries to expensive policies that they may not want or be able to afford.

Cough, sputter, what??? We're going to be spending HOW MUCH? Oh, but wait, there's more:
Like the House bill, Mr. Baucus uses 10 years of taxes to fund about seven years of spending. Some $215 billion is scrounged up by imposing a 35% excise tax on insurance companies for plans valued at more than $21,000 for families and $8,000 for individuals. This levy would merely be added to the insurers' "administrative load" and passed down to all consumers in higher prices. Ditto for the $59 billion that Mr. Baucus would raise by taxing the likes of clinical laboratories and drug and device makers.

Mr. Baucus also wants to cut $409 billion from Medicare, according to CBO, though the only money that is certain to see the budget ax is $123 billion from the Medicare Advantage program. Liberal Democrats hate Advantage because it gives 10.2 million seniors private options. The other "savings" come from supposedly automatic cuts that a future Congress is unlikely to ever approve that is, until this entitlement spending swamps the federal budget. Then the government will have no choice but to raise taxes to European welfare-state levels or impose drastic restrictions on patient care. Or, most likely, both.

***

To sum up, the Baucus-Obama plan would increase the cost of insurance and then force people to buy it, requiring subsidies. Those subsidies would be paid for by taxes that make health care and thus insurance even more expensive, requiring even more subsidies and still higher taxes. It's a recipe to ruin health care and bankrupt the country, and that's even before liberal Democrats see Mr. Baucus and raise him, and then attempt to ram it all through the Senate. (Emphasis mine.)

Gee, they make this sound so good, where do I sign up?? Ahem. As Bronwyn's Harbor pointed out in TWO excellent posts this week, there will be incredible costs to all of us that are being masked, or simply unmentioned, by our esteemed elected officials. Looks like the WSJ has had enough of that subterfuge. Let's hope more sources will expose these plans, too.

I guess I'm getting an idea of just how this might affect us after all...

8 comments:

SFIndie said...

So, Rev, let me get this straight:

1) We're going to be FORCED to buy an insurance plan we don't want and/or can't afford, or we'll be fined/taxed money we don't have.

2) For those who qualify for subsidies, they'd still end up paying money they can't afford on premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses.

3) These subsidies will be paid for by taxing insurance companies (who will pass that tax on to the consumer) and cutting Medicare (which is already a disaster).

4) Insurance companies will ultimately be driven out of business, leaving millions without jobs and without healthcare, requiring even more subsidies.

5) With no insurance companies to tax, subsidies will be funded by.... hmmmm, not sure about that.

6) Within 10 years the U.S. will have only government run healthcare. Unless, of course, you're a member of Congress, POTUS, or VPOTUS, or very very rich and can buy your own doctor.

And this Administration wants to do this just to PROVE it can?

Someone please show me in the Constitution where it says the government has the right to force the citizens of this country to purchase something they do not want. I wonder what I'll be forced to buy next???

I can only hope that by 2013, I'm living out of the country. Malta is supposed to have a great healthcare system!

I honestly cannot believe all the crap going on in this country today. But then, I must be a raaaaacist, so I can't be expected to understand. I must simply obey. Resistance is futile. Show me the way to the re-education camp.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Um, yeah - you gotta problem with all of those things or what?? Ahem.

It is really amazing, isn't it? But yes, you have summed it up nicely, SF! That's pretty much it.

Hey, you have already been forced to buy GM!! The Fed. Gov't owns 61% of it now, which means WE own 61% of it. I don't LIKE GM, so I am particularly annoyed. Now, if it was Porsche or something, and we ALL got a big ass discount, then well sure, but GM? Blech.

I think I'm being flippant because otherwise, my head would freaking explode.

I swear, SF, I was thinking the very same thing today. I swear - I was thinking that we need to move the hell out of the country a lot sooner than later, because if NOT, everything will be going to the Feds. Between the "fees" (that's TAXES) for Health care, and the COSTS of health care, we won't have have any money at all to GET out of the country.

Maybe that's what they want - captive workers. Isn't that how they did it in other countries, too?

Malta is lovely - I think you and your racist* self will be happy there. :-)

* Can you BELIEVE this whole racism charge crap??? I'm going to have a little something abt it tomorrow. And, I cannot believe I am agreeing with Cal Thomas - a first, I assure you, but as he said, this is the SAME country that elected Obama (though that's somewhat debatable - take ACORN out of the equation, and let's just see how it would have been), and now all of a sudden, everyone's a racist? The same people who voted for him? Uh, yeah...SO insulting...

SFIndie said...

Hmmmm, I forgot about GM. Yeah, not crazy about that. I wonder if I can get His Lordship O to offer me a refund? Buyers remorse and all that.... Hah!

Porsche + discount....now THAT I'd gladly buy into!

Maybe enough of those racists....I mean supporters....who voted for O will wake up if they get good and tired of being called racists. Although I have to admit a teeny tiny part of me is feeling a little bit of "I told you so". I mean, if you vote for a racist, ya gotta figure you'll be called one, too. Birds of a feather and all that.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

LOL at "His Lordship." Good one!

Oh, wow, wouldn't that just be FANTASTIC if we could tell them we wouldn't our money back?? I'm sure there's a way. Not with THIS Congress, but maybe the next...

That reminds me - how d'ya like your representative comparing the peaceful protests across the country to the violent days of San Fran when Harvey Milk was assassinated??? WTH?

I might add, someone had a link to this site that showed all of these protests during Bush's regime with posters of Bush as Hitler. There were LOTS of them. I dislike Bush a lot, but honestly - I don't recall people going on and on abt comparing HIM to Hitler, just Obama.

No one can say a WORD against Obama. That is not a democracy It just isn't. And it is infuriating, maddening, even saddening, that DEMOCRATS are trying to take away our democracy! WTF (as that awesome George Washington poster had)??

Now - where do we sign up to get those Porsches?

SFIndie said...

Don't EVEN get me started on Pelosi, or Boxer or Feinstein for that matter! For the life of me I CANNOT understand why those three so easily get re-elected! I suppose for the same reasons that Arnie is our guv......although the reason completely escapes me. I was born and raised in California, and I'm ashamed of my home state.

I think Pelosi needs to take advantage of her excellent health care coverage and get an MRI of her brain. Something is seriously wrong with her.

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

LOL abt the MRI...

I saw some comments abt what she said at some media site covering it, and people were HOT under the collar abt the comparison, especially abt the violence implication, especially given how peaceful everyone had been at the March. For Pelosi to have the audacity to say that kind if incendiary thing just made them mighty unhappy. And with very good reason, I might add.

This morning, Megyn Kelly was talking abt it, and said that, ironically, it was the DEMS, including Pelosi and Hoyer, who ratcheted up the vitriol, like when they called protesters UN-AMERICAN. What is WRONG with these people??

I hear you, SF - I really respected Barbara Boxer until the last couple of years. It's like they've all had frontal lobotomies or something. Bizarre.

I didn't understand the Arnold thing, either - made no sense to me. But then again, neither did Reagan...

Well, SF, I can say, you have a beautiful state. So, there's that...

Connie said...

OK now I'm mad and scared. Is this thing going to pass?

Rabble Rouser Reverend Amy said...

Well, it is certainly possible, Connie, especially if the Dems go for the "Nuclear Option," which Reid is threatening (remember how INFURIATED we were when the Reps threatened to do that? They didn't, but who know?).

And wait until you see an updated post I have for tomorrow on the White House/Big Pharma connection. Wow...