Senator Ron Wyden’s Universal Health Coverage Plan
Wyden’s plan would require employers to continue contributing toward the cost of health coverage, but it would get them out the business of directly providing insurance and limit their exposure to double-digit annual inflation in healthcare costs.It sounds like free marketers and libertarians might actually be able to rally around the Wyden plan in years one and two. However, for some reason, after year two, Senator Wyden wants to stick employers back in between individuals and their health insurance…
In the first two years of the plan, employers who now provide coverage would be required to directly pay workers what they were spending on insurance.
Thereafter, most companies would pay the government a healthcare contribution that resembles a payroll tax.If you can successfully decouple insurance from the workplace for two years, then why does it need to be recoupled at a later date? The payroll-tax provision sounds more like something intended to make the government’s tax collection job easier, or to increase government influence over the healthcare choices that individuals make or, if you really want to be cynical, to make people believe that government is giving them something for free, when they are really buying it with their own hard-earned money, more than it does something intended to improve the delivery of healthcare.
Regardless of that concern, the idea of giving people the resources they need to choose their own health insurance, rather than having employers choose their insurance for them, is a solid starting point. Here’s the rest of the outline of Senator Wyden’s plan, according to the Times…
Using the money from their employers, individuals would be required to purchase private insurance policies through state purchasing pools. Benefits would be keyed to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Standard Plan available to federal workers. Workers would not have to pay higher income taxes because of the employer contribution.A fuller description of the plan is available from Senator Wyden’s official website.
The uninsured would also have to buy coverage, but premiums for the poor would be fully subsidized by the government, and middle-class families with incomes up to $80,000 for a family of four would be eligible for help on a sliding scale.
Premiums from individuals and contributions from employers would be collected by the government through the tax system and distributed to insurers. Once enrolled, individuals would be covered until retirement. Seniors in the Medicare program would not have to make any changes.
In short, the concept of the Wyden plan is really quite simple (as are most health insurance plans, contrary to what you may have been told. As Ronald Reagan once said, “There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers.”)…
- Change the insurance system so that people within a state are pooled together and can buy health insurance, regardless of who their employer is,
- Require individuals to purchase a mandatory minimum level of health insurance, while allowing insurance companies to sell more coverage to people who are willing to spend more, and
- Create a new healthcare entitlement for people below a certain income level.
Oh, and where is the money for that new entitlement going to come from?