Oh, boy, what a winner we have here. Health insurance would be mandatory, period. You could get it through an employer, the government, or buy it yourself, but you have to have it. To offset the cost, tax credits are being proposed. Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware, said, "For some people it's going to be a heavy lift. We're doing our best to make sure it's not an impossible lift." Senator Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine, said, "We have no certainty as to whether or not these plans are going to be affordable." How nice of them (both of them are on the Senate Finance Committee) to keep the financial hardships of a proposal they themselves aren't going to use in mind.
The Kaiser Family Foundation has put a Health Reform Subsidy Calculator on its web site, where you can punch in data and see what you're facing. The results are alarming. Assume the center of the middle class, a family of four headed by a 45-year-old making $63,000 a year. The policy they require would cost $11,080 a year. Now, the family would get a tax credit of $3,970. That leaves a balance due of $7,110 to pay. Admittedly, the calculator is just a rough guide and the Baucus' bill hasn't been finalized. But that just the policy. It doesn't consider co-pays and deductibles that can add thousands of dollars to their costs.
The affordability issue is the elephant in the room that everyone is ignoring. It is a political time bomb, because, as we've seen in the debate so far, all it takes is a few really simple examples to get people screaming that they are being screwed. Baucus' plan doesn't help. Obama set a target that any health proposal should come in at $900 bil over ten years, which this one does. To compensate to the lack of funding from the government, premiums are going to go up. Way up. Higher than they were under previous proposals. Kaiser's prisdent, Drew Altman, said, "Affordability has been lurking in the background and is nowhere near resolved yet. It's tricky because it doesn't take a lot of people to make affordability a political problem. It just takes some very visible and understandable cases."
Overlooked in all of this is how many small businesses are going to get shafted. They won't be able to pay the premiums. They'll either be dropping employees to cut costs, going under, or not offering insurance at all, passing all the costs on. There is not one aspect of this that says, "Good idea," and Congress is trying to railroad it through, anyway.
When I look in my crystal ball, I don't see a lot good for this bill. Support in Congress has fragmented as badly as it did under Clinton after his first days. People are supporting the bill for no good reason, but there is not enough support to get it over the top in the Senate. Senators coming up for re-election next year are accutely aware the public is not going to allow themselves to be take advantage of like they were with the bailout bills ("Gee, I can't figure out why the voters don't trust their Congressmen." I think I have an idea). And that's just the Senate. The entire House will get thrown out. The press is continuing to try and show a rosy future and solidarity in Congress to getting this through, which they usually do just before the wheels get knocked off. If we keep up the pressure, this screw the voters bill will die quickly.
I could be wrong now...but I don't think so....