There’s a story on the wires today that illustrates how badly Americans need a universal health care plan, not some convoluted shell game like John McCain’s campaign proposal.
The story tells how employers are swindling employees out of insurance claims by using a law that was actually designed to help the employees. Under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act., employers are shielded against lawsuits from employees whose claims they refuse to pay. Federal appeals courts, interpreting Supreme Court decisions dating from 1993, consistently have said companies that offer health, life and retirement benefits under this law cannot be sued for large amounts of money. Instead, they can be sued only for such trifling sums as insurance-premium refunds.
This story is just one example of how “market-based” health policies fail to protect Americans.
And McCain’s proposal is definitely “market-based.” It relies on increased corporate competition – which would supposedly limit customer costs – and tax credits to encourage the uninsured to buy insurance.
But his proposed once-a-year tax credits would mainly help the healthy and well off. Those who need coverage most would still be unable to afford premiums that now average over $12,000 per family, not including skyrocketing deductibles, co-pays, drug and hospital charges, and other fees.
And McCain’s view that increased competition would lower premiums is woefully naive. He doesn’t seem to realize that insurance companies don’t compete by delivering better care or lowering prices. They compete by recruiting more customers and diluting overhead expenses.
The AFL-CIO warns that McCain’s plan “undermines existing employer-based health care and pushes workers into the private market to fight big insurance companies on their own.” According to the labor organization, the plan “will reduce benefits, increase costs and leave many with no health care at all.”
Here are a few of the McCain plan’s weaknesses:
– The tax credit he proposes wouldn’t cover the cost of premiums.
– Existing protections established by a number of states would be undermined.
– Employers would be encouraged to drop employee health plans and push employees into the private market.
– “Health savings accounts” proposed under the plan would primarily benefit wealthier and healthier people (as well as banks and other financial institutions).
– And, perhaps most important, McCain’s proposal would do nothing to stop the abuses that are rampant in the current insurance-based system.
In my view, trusting the insurance companies to look after our health-care needs would be like assigning a mongoose to protect the health of your chickens. But if that’s OK with you, you know whom to vote for come November.