* where x is some number between 20 million and 100 million depending on whose research you quote.
I use to work in IT for a government contracting company that specializes in working government contracts related to healthcare in their IT department. On Monday afternoon July 27, 2009 I, along with 9 other coworkers got canned/laid off/riffed/whatever you want to call it. The bottom line for me is I am now unemployed and looking for work. But first, I have to dig through the mound of paperwork the HR department so helpfully provided as I was being shown the door (at least they did it right this time, my accounts were locked WHILE they were talking to me). It’s a bewildering amount of data to consume at a time when you are in a bit of shock to begin with, and I see why some people want to throw up their hands and let somebody else make the decisions. But guess what? Even facing the worst employment market in my life, I still don’t want The Big 0’s socialized medical plan!
You see, while I might not like listening to Mark Levin because like me he really has a voice for the newspaper, what he says is so important and has such clarity that it is usually worth the irritation. A few nights ago he said we don’t have a health care issue, we don’t even really have a health care insurance issue, what we have are a jobs issue and a government regulation issue. (Wish I could find an audio link but I can’t.) Because of the way the regulations are written, almost all issued health insurance policies are tied to jobs, and Obama and his comrades in Congress have so sabotaged job creation that even more people are being laid off and losing their health insurance.
But instead of simply complaining, let’s take a look at some real numbers, and how George W. Bush’s** proposal on reforming health care would have helped me: universally available Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s). A couple of weeks back, I made an off the cuff, back of the envelop calculation of how much of a fine I’d pay if the Democratic Socialists in Congress pass their healthcare nationalization plan. I thought it might work out to about $225 a year because I’m single on an HMO plan, which of the plans available through my employer was the cheapest one available. Turns out I was wrong, at least if the numbers my employer provided for self-paid cobra coverage will cost are correct. Instead, I’d be saving about $2300 a year by paying the fine. Quite frankly, as a mostly healthy (technically I’m obese, and borderline on cholesterol and blood pressure, but not on any kind of prescription meds) male in my mid 40s, I don’t need that kind of gold plated healthcare plan. So let’s work with those numbers and see how things would have worked if I would have been able to open one W’s HSA accounts.
The first thing I did in thinking about my healthcare insurance was to look on Google to see what sorts of plans might be out there that I could purchase. I found one from a company I didn’t recognize for about $60/month. It had a $10,000 deductible, 20% copay, and didn’t cover office visits. The very next item on the list was from Blue Cross and Blue shield, with similar coverage for a buck more. Prices ranged all the way up to a platinum deluxe plan for about $650/month on a $500 deductible, 20% copay, and you pay 20% of office visit costs after the deductible has been met. Somewhere in the middle, Blue Cross has a plan for about $120/month with a deductible of $2500. So, if I max/min’d this under the HSA, I’d contribute the cost of the insurance plus $2500/year for a total of $4440/year in contributions. First off, this is $860 less than what my former employer had budgeted for me for the current year, money that either I or my employer could have put to more productive uses elsewhere (possibly even having succeeded at growing the business so I’d still be employed). But there’s more: the money would have grown while I was working. For the most part, I haven’t used that health care plan since W was in office. The one time I did need it, I went to the person I thought was my doctor only to find he was no longer in the Aetna network, so I paid that visit out of pocket anyway. Because it is healthcare money that I might need at any point, within the HSA fund, I would have had it in bonds instead of stocks because I might need to tap into the principle IF something bad did happen. So looking at the Van Guard performance indexes for Total Bond fund, and picking 5.3%/yr growth (the midpoint performance between 5 and 10 years because we are talking about 7 years ago more or less), the current balance in my HSA account would be about $18,000 and I wouldn’t HAVE an insurance problem. I’d probably have more money actually, because at the end of the second year I could switch to a $5000 deductible and at the end of the third year I’d probably switch to the $10,000 deductible. And all that money would be invested in growing the economy either by me directly spending it or investing it via the HSA.
In short, W, with most of the heavy lifting having actually been done by The CATO Institute and maybe some help from The Heritage Foundation, solved the health insurance problem years ago. It’s just that The Big 0 and his socialist allies in Congress were unwilling to implement the solution.
** Yeah, I still think he’s a bit of a squish, and only a right leaning moderate as opposed to a conservative, but I owe credit where it’s due, and he did at least propose this as a possible solution to the problem.