Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Update on the Baucus Healthcare bill.

It's out. Here's the full text of the Baucus bill... not a summary.
Thanks to AudacityWatch.com for the link. Obviously, I haven't had time to read all 1502 pages... I've skimmed through some of it.

Section 1301 describes how you will be taxed if you do not maintain health insurance (whether you need it or not) to the tune of $750 per "applicable individual". This will be phased in over time, and then adjusted with the cost of living. Interestingly, the government is not allowed to collect the tax if you fail to pay it. They can ask for or demand the money; they can refund anything you've overpaid; and they can apply any money they would otherwise owe you to the tax; but that's it.

Paying for the bill is problematic, at best, and it's as if Baucus went out of his way to find the worst possible way of doing so. For instance, there are additional fees and taxes as follows:
  • An excise tax on private plans that exceed the requirements of the government plan (Sec. 6001)
  • Elimination of tax exemptions for private healthcare insurance and health savings accounts (Sec. 6002).
  • A requirement that all covered drugs must be prescribed, even if they are available without a prescription (Sec. 6003).
  • Doubling of the tax on distributions from your health savings account that are not used for "qualified" medical expenses (Sec. 6004).
  • Limiting your cafeteria plan flexible spending arrangements. Savings plans will be ineligible unless your contributions are limited to $2500/year (Sec. 6005). By comparison, I priced a private healthcare plan for me and my family... it came to about $6000/year. This would seem to put health savings plans at a decided disadvantage.
  • Heavy new annual fees on branded prescription drug manufacturers (Sec. 6008).
  • Heavy new annual fees on medical device manufacturers and importers (Sec. 6009).
  • Heavy new annual fees on health insurers (Sec. 6010).

Now, if you were paying attention to this entire healthcare discussion during the Presidential campaign and since then, you'll certainly remember that the core issue was reducing costs to make sure that healthcare is affordable for all Americans. You DO NOT do this...
  • ...by artificially making drugs more expensive to produce;
  • ...by making medical devices like glucose meters, walkers, and other paraphernalia more expensive;
  • ...by making private health insurance more expensive;
  • ...by taxing your health insurance by removing exemptions and punishing people for purchasing comprehensive plans of their own, thus making all plans incapable of competing with the subsidized government plan;
  • ...and by forcing people to visit the doctor for prescriptions for over-the-counter medications
as this bill does. Every funding provision of this bill is geared toward making healthcare costs more expensive. Every cost-saving provision is based on limitation of benefits. READ THE BILL. I'm still reading it, but even at a cursory glance, it is exactly what the Republicans warned about, and what the Democrats claimed would never happen.

You know the tax on those "Cadillac Health Care Plans"? Section 6001 (page 1420) describes the "Excise Tax on High Cost Employer-Sponsored Health Coverage": 40% of the "excess benefit" for daring to opt for a better insurance comprehensive insurance plan than the government offers. This bill dismantles private insurance, to replace it with government-controlled "co-ops" which are private in name only. The reason they do this is simple: in order to make any health-insurance plan sustainable, you have to have many more healthy people signed up than sick people. You need this to be able to collect enough in premiums to cover your expense outlays. Rather than be up-front about the payments and costs, Senator Baucus has chosen to hide what should be premiums in increased costs throughout the healthcare system. The funny thing is that in taxing those things that should be covered by the system, it's effectively reducing the benefit. In so doing, it fails to provide the advertised benefit at all, and makes it more difficult for those people who would simply purchase services, medicines, and equipment outright to do so.

In short, it does exactly the opposite of what was promised.

At a glance it's not 100% bad, especially if you're one of the special interest groups marked for exemption, like illegal aliens. They can rest easy, knowing that they can continue to sponge off the system (page 201). We wouldn't want them inconvenienced. We save the inconvenience and expense for citizens and legal alien workers.

Keep in mind that this is simply the Senate plan. Any plan destined for the President's signature will be an amalgam of this and the House bill. IOW, the strong probability is that it will be even uglier.

As I mentioned a couple of times earlier, I'm still reading this. There may be portions which I mis-read or are revised by other sections. Some portions reference other legislation that's not part of the text of this bill. If I've gotten something wrong and I discover it or someone else brings it to my attention, I'll revise the info here.

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