Health Insurance Idea (Op-Ed on Health Insurance)
Here's my idea, instead of raising revenue through the 8% tax on employers, the steep tax hikes to the top earners, and the deep cuts in Medicare, the House should, from Senator Wyden's Healthy Americans Act, replace the employer exclusion for a tax subsidy to purchase health insurance on the Exchange, and should, for the first two years after the bill is enacted, require employers to raise their employees' wages by their contribution to their employees' health insurance should they choose no longer to offer it. This would do several things:
First, because of the wage raise and the tax subsidy to purchase health insurance on the Exchange, most people's tax liability would be about the same if they purchased health insurance on the Exchange. In fact, if they shopped wisely on the Exchange, they could even save money.
They might say, "Hey, I can pocket $100/mo. if I choose an HMO with the same benefits rather than my current PPO." Or, they could say, "Look, I can save $250/mo. if I'm willing to pay $250 for surgery, $75 for X-rays and CT Scans, etc.
While I like having free surgery, X-rays, CT Scans, etc., I'm paying a heckuva lot of money for something I don't use very often. I'll take the cheaper plan." Because people will choose cheaper plans, health care costs will go down. This will satisfy the Blue Dogs.
Second, even though many employers would drop their employees' health insurance coverage, everyone would have access to the Exchange and the public option, so the Exchange would be much stronger. This would make liberals happy. Also, people who bought health insurance on the Exchange -- be it the public plan or a private plan -- would have health insurance independent of their job. And no worker would be locked into their employer-based plan.
Finally, because taxing all employer health benefits raises so much money, none of those other unpopular tax increases and cuts to public programs will be necessary to fund universal health care. Those tax increases and cuts in public programs can be used to reduce the deficit. And there is enough money to start the Exchange and the new medical underwriting limits in 2011 -- rather than 2013. Everyone is happy because of this.
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