Hell to the chief

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By Tim Redmond

The president's state of the union speech doesn't start for another few hours, but already anyone who cares already knows what he's going to say. But it's not going to be easy to talk about Iraq the same day that his new commander in the region calls the situation "dire.".

And it's not going to be easy to talk about reforming health insurance policy when his plan has a already been busted for fraud.

The NY Times -- much to my continued annoyance -- won't let you see its best stuff on the web unless you're a paid subscriber, so let me quote for you from Paul Krugman's latest column:

On the radio, Mr. Bush suggested that we should “treat health insurance more like home ownership.” He went on to say that “the current tax code encourages home ownership by allowing you to deduct the interest on your mortgage from your taxes. We can reform the tax code, so that it provides a similar incentive for you to buy health insurance.”

Wow. Those are the words of someone with no sense of what it’s like to be uninsured.

Going without health insurance isn’t like deciding to rent an apartment instead of buying a house. It’s a terrifying experience, which most people endure only if they have no alternative. The uninsured don’t need an “incentive” to buy insurance; they need something that makes getting insurance possible.

Most people without health insurance have low incomes, and just can’t afford the premiums. And making premiums tax-deductible is almost worthless to workers whose income puts them in a low tax bracket.

Of those uninsured who aren’t low-income, many can’t get coverage because of pre-existing conditions — everything from diabetes to a long-ago case of jock itch. Again, tax deductions won’t solve their problem.

The only people the Bush plan might move out of the ranks of the uninsured are the people we’re least concerned about — affluent, healthy Americans who choose voluntarily not to be insured. At most, the Bush plan might induce some of those people to buy insurance, while in the process — whaddya know — giving many other high-income individuals yet another tax break.

No wonder the guy's poll rankings are at about the level Richard Nixon's were just before he resigned.