We can all agree that healthcare costs can be, and often are, unaffordable for many; the system needs reform, but to what end? A recent proposal from Congress would create a public option for individuals earning up to a certain percentage above the poverty line in an effort to ensure that the roughly 47 million uninsured individuals in this country are covered.
Unfortunately, that number is a bit disingenuous, but effective, in helping push legislation. Let’s break that number down a bit: roughly 18 million can afford insurance, but do not want it; 8 million are young 18-25 year olds and choose not to sign up; 12 million are non-citizen residents or illegal; 9 million are between jobs and only temporarily uninsured; 8 million are covered children, who have merely not been signed up; and another 3 million are eligible for government health programs but have not signed up. This adds up to more than the 47 million uninsured that is often cited, but many individuals will fall under multiple categories. What we also know is that roughly 80 percent of those that are uninsured are in good to excellent health and the majority tend to be young. Additionally, the numbers cited are merely a snapshot, or a moment in time, of the true picture of the uninsured, which could be higher or lower than the official figures.
So just from looking at these rough numbers, we can see that it can be a bit misleading to claim a government option is needed immediately for the health and well being of the citizenry.
From a financial perspective, the Congressional Budget Office gives a pretty clear picture of why bringing a public option to the table should be so unpalatable. By its own reports, the claimed savings on Medicare of $2 billion over 10 years is small in comparison to the roughly $1 trillion it would cost in that same time frame to fund the public option–and we’re only in the first decade of the program. Beyond that the net cost of coverage would continue to grow by 8 percent a year. What this means is an unsustainable level of deficit spending over the long term, unless taxes are raised significantly on everyone–including the middle class and poor. Any move towards a single-payer system would force these numbers sky high to a level that would bankrupt government and the system.
This program is unneeded and too expensive, in addition to the many other problems presented by the House’s version of the legislation, to be seen as a real solution.
There are other options available for decreasing costs and reforming the insurance industry, but keeping it out of the hands of government is best if we respect the principles set forth in the constitution. Otherwise we trample on them in order to gain more entitlements and increased tax obligations–perhaps not for ourselves but certainly for our progeny, and at the unintended cost of changing the face of what liberty means in this country.
Update: To be published in the Herald Palladium. Not sure on the date yet.