File Under "You've Got to be Kidding"

Thursday, February 16, 2006

File Under "You've Got to be Kidding"

President Bush campaigned for his plan to expand health savings accounts on Wednesday here at the headquarters of the Wendy's fast-food chain, declaring that his proposals were not just for the wealthy and would help some of the 45 million Americans who remain uninsured.
Mr. Bush's plan seeks to make the accounts more attractive by expanding their tax incentives and by increasing the amount of money that people may contribute to them each year. Mr. Bush also said on Wednesday that he wanted to make the catastrophic insurance that people buy with the plans "portable," meaning that people could continue carrying the insurance even if they changed employers.

"You see, it's like car insurance," Mr. Bush said. "If you change jobs, you can take your car insurance with you."

Mr. Bush's position is that the accounts will make people more conscious of the money they are spending for their medical needs and will ultimately help drive down the nation's health care costs through competition.
This is all so preposterous-- where do I begin?

Something tells me Bush has never spent 6 hours waiting in a city hospital ER waiting room. Well, I have done so several times over the past few years, in fact I did just a few days ago. Just like every other time I've been to a city ER, the vast majority of the people in the waiting room did not have a "true" emergency. They have an ache or a pain or a twisted ankle, something a GP could treat. So why would someone spend 6 hours waiting to see a doctor for something that isn't an emergency? Most of them are poor people who don't have health insurance, which means they don't have a regular doctor, and they certainly don't have money to pay for medical care out-of-pocket, regardless of whether or not the money is taxed.

Bush reveals just how completely out of touch he about what it means to be poor. It means you don't have money to set aside in an account for health care- shocking, I know! I'm also not sure where Bush gets the wacky idea that the uninsured are spending money frivilously on medical care or that they aren't aware that it's really expensive. In fact, I think the poor and uninsured are probably more aware of the cost of health care than people who *do* have health insurance.

Only a person who has never worried about money a day in his life would compare car insurance to health insurance. If you have a car you are *required* to have car insurance. If good health insurance was as cheap as car insurance more people might actually have it. But I suppose coming up with ways to give the poor cheap health insurance makes more sense than offering them accounts so they can pay for it themselves with all their expendible income.

Then there's the irony of Bush campaigning for health care-related issues at a fast food chain headquarters. Do these look at all healthy to you?
The best advice he could give Wendy's employees? Don't eat your product if you want to be healthy.

Of course none of this really matters since Bush's HSAs are really just another way to help the rich save money on their taxes under the guise of helping everyone.
Tax tables from the Treasury Department show that a married couple with two children and income of $40,000 in 2005 could have saved $630 on their federal income taxes if they had made a $5,000 contribution to a health savings account. The same family making the same contribution, but with an income of $120,000, would have saved $1,500 in taxes.
Everybody should know by now that whenever Bush talks about helping the poor what he really means is helping the rich.

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