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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Friday-Sunday, June 15-17, 2007


The Health Care Tax

I get a little tired of hearing "the other side" tell us all that Universal health Care, let alone Single Payer Universal health Care, will cause our taxes to rise to a point where the average American would be left with nothing. If watching the bush administration has showed us anything, it has showed us that no matter what is being paid for, the average American - a.k.a. the middle class - is paying for it.

The average cost of a family's health care insurance policy - all through private insurance - has risen to nearly $1,000 per month. And making matters worse are other factors such as the rising cost of deductibles and co-pays, the rising cost of prescription drugs, employee participation (the amount paid for by employees versus the amount paid for by their employer), the loss of disposable income and family savings and, for many families who have to go out of network, the amount they pay outside of "the usual and customary" fee allowed by the private health insurance providers.

America.... make no mistake about it... you are paying a health care tax right now.

Many employers have had to either eliminate purchasing health care for their employees altogether or are requiring their employees to pick up much more of their monthly premiums. Many of us who live in New Jersey will remember the outcry to require teachers to pay for some of their health care insurance with cries of "We have to, so why shouldn't they?" This misses the point. We shouldn't have to.

American health insurance companies are recording record profits while, at the same time, claiming poverty. They show overhead costs of up to 40 percent and their CEO's boast of million dollar salaries and multi-million dollar bonuses and "golden parachutes". If ever collusion and conspiracy were taking place, it is surely taking place among the America's insurance providers. And the Bush answer is to tell us all that the free market will take care of everything. More than any other president, this one has shown that the free market is not the cure-all for all that ails us.

Many companies use some kind of formula to figure out what their employees will pay. I have found that many will pay for the employee and make them pay the difference in cost to cover their families. For arguments sake, let's use that formula here and figure that employees are paying for approximately half of their health care insurance costs.

If one were to factor in all of the health care related costs which we, the average American family, pay for "out of pocket" expense, we can assume that this family throws more than $600 per month of their salaries at health care. Taking into account that this family earns less than $4,000 per month (before federal, state, local and social security taxes), this means that, at a minimum, we're paying fifteen percent of our income for our medical expenses. This translates to nearly 20 percent of our take home pay, and that's just for the average American family of four with four basically healthy members. If you happen to be, or take care of, one of the chronically ill, you're probably paying much, much more.

This is the American health care tax and most of us are paying much more than our fair share. Just because it isn't collected by the government doesn't make it any less of a tax.

it's too bad that when creating the Social Security Administration FDR hadn't had the foresight to see what a national health care plan could have done for his nation in its future. If he and the US Congress had that foresight then, today, we wouldn't be having this conversation because there would be no health care companies to form lobbies with the dual purpose of bribing our elected officials and mis-informing the American pubic that we have the greatest health care system in the world. We don't and we had better stop thinking that we have the greatest of everything before we become more third-world-like than we would ever admit.

Imagine, if you will, that the Social Security administration were never created (a thought which many Republicans still dream about). How much would Social Security cost those of us who might be able to afford it? How many would have to go without any retirement benefits at all? Who would pay for their living costs?

While health care companies claim their 40 percent overhead; and while doctors' offices pay exorbitant amounts of money on pushing the paper which health care companies require, the Social Security Administration pays less than two percent of its collected monies in overhead. Using that same formula, we could assume tat a national health care policy would cost us at least half of what it costs us today.

Even more to the point, if we were to base our national health care costs, in taxes versus premiums, those who earn more would pay more for the benefit of all.

We look at other western nations and say their health care systems don't work. It's a lie. England, where they have real socialized medicine and all doctors are paid by the government, have more healthy people and less infant mortalities, on average, than we do. Canada has more of a hybrid approach to health care coverage and everyone pays their fair share of taxes for it. Everyone has health care coverage there.

Is the Bush administration trying to tell us that our national health care costs would be greater than 20 percent for the Average American Family? How stupid do they think we are?

Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, was the first to come out with a comprehensive health care plan. Others seeking his party's nomination have followed with their own plans to cover the near 50 million Americans without any health care insurance. While President Bush is still trying to push his health care plan, which seems to be "plan to stay healthy", by telling us all to save money, which we don't have, for our future health care needs; and while those on the GOP side seeking the Oval Office say "I'm going to fix health care" but show us nothing in the form of any real plan, most of us either go without or without enough.

A true free market society, which President Bush and the GOP push and push in the form of corporate welfare programs, will never succeed for the average American because it isn't designed to. It's design is to make us a feudal society where the rich stay rich and the rest of us can barely keep our heads above water. Fixing health care is a way of helping not only our sick, but our economy as well. After all, with more money to spend, the American middle class will take more trips, buy more goods and strengthen our economy from the inside.

Electing a Republican president in 2008 will do nothing towards fixing our nation health care crisis. Now that we have, finally, a national health care dialogue we need to make it stick. Newspapers like the New York Times. which barely give the debate any print space at all, need to come forward and take the lead. They have to ignore their health care insurance company advertisers and need to start doing their job as our nation's watchdog. That goes for all of the other mass media outlets as well. Maybe we'll have to embarrass them to do so.

It's time to get rid of our national health care tax and institute a better plan. Beginning to speak about it is a good first step, but rhetoric isn't enough.

-Noah Greenberg

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-Noah Greenberg