In this age of pre-release media, anyone who is paying attention knows the content of President Bush's State of the Union speech even before he's made his way to Capitol Hill. One of the proposals he's slated to make has to do with health insurance. According to an AP story, the White House noted:
"Contributions from employers toward health insurance would begin to be treated as taxable income. At the same time, a standard deduction for taxpayers with health insurance would be set at $15,000 for families and $7,500 for individuals.
The White House says 80 percent of workers with health insurance through their jobs would see a tax cut as a result of the change. But about 20 percent would see a tax increase — those workers whose health insurance cost more than the standard deduction."
House Democrats claim this will push more employers to stop providing insurance.
Pete Stark, Democrat of California, says: "Under the guise of tax breaks, the president is pursuing a policy designed to destroy the employer-based health care system through which 160 million people receive coverage.""... some of the people with health insurance premiums above $15,000 don't necessarily have "gold-plated insurance," as the Bush administration has called it. She said the cost of insurance varies depending upon the cost of health care in that state. Other factors include the size of the company and the age of its workforce.
A representative from the Kaiser Family Foundation faults the proposal for its one-size-fits-all approach. Diane Rowland, EVP at KFF:
"A single cap can mean very different things in different places of the country"."
Foundations around the country have been wrestling with health insurance issues for decades. California alone is home to four major foundations, all created from health care provider conversions, that deal with health care, the poor, and health access issues. (There are many more such foundations around the state and across the country).
While they may not be directly engaged in insurance issues, certainly their missions and their work would be affected by any significant change in how the health insurance system works. These foundations include:
- The California Endowment
- The California Wellness Foundation
- The California Healthcare Foundation
- The Blue Shield of California Foundation
How has their work informed the President's proposal, or does it contradict his suggested approach?
What other options should be considered, by the Congress if not the President?
I'm tempted to post another poll:
"President Bush's health insurance plan: For or against?"