A 2% tax increase any way you look at it

On the first of April, my health insurance company will start taking a 21.8% increase in premiums out of my butt. They have not increased services nor do I feel more comfortable that my coverage is any more secure. I know that I am one heart attack away from being dropped and two heart attacks away from bankruptcy. But, that appears to be life in America, so as sure as I walk the sidewalks flanking the roads with half-crazed nuts driving around texting like mad, I guess I can breeze along with health insurance as least half as good as those odds.

Then I got to thinking about what that 21.8% increase really means.

Let’s say the average salary is about $48,000 and an increase of 21.8% represents about $1,000 of POST TAX income that I have to spend on health insurance. That is about 2% of an average salary if you don’t count in taxes or anything like that. If you calculate just on take-home pay, it is more. But, let’s leave it at 2%. (If you make less, that percentage goes way up but even if you make twice as much, the tax is still 1%)

That is a 2% tax increase. Whatever else you may want to call it, it is 2% of your wages that is no longer discretionary. You can’t buy a flat-screen TV with that or an iPad (cause you know you’ll want the big one) or even a good German Shepherd. That is 2% of your income that is a private tax to your insurance company who may or may not cover you when you need it. So, I guess it is more like a 2% of your salary bet on red in Las Vegas.

My Australian friends tell me that for a flat 1.5% of their gross income, they get full health care. And they are happy and healthy, despite their lifestyle (if you’re Aussie, you’re grinning, high-fiving your mates and saying stuff like “no worries” cause you know what I mean.)

2% is a tax increase any way you look at it only we can’t vote those bums out.

Can we keep talking about why universal coverage is too expensive? Seems like we’re already conditioned to pay.

How health insurance companies gave Obama’s health care reform it’s second wind

In November, the Democrats were on the ropes. The GOP had just elected themselves a golden child with Scott Brown and tilted the scales back below sixty votes in the Senate. They had won two gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey. The media was calling the Health Care Reform bill dead. Time between now and the next election cycle was getting shorter and the drums of defeat were beating loudly.

But then the bill got the biggest shot in the arm from the insurance companies. They increased their rates 39% in California, cut off cancer-survivors in Youngstown, Ohio, jacked up rates all over the country and even sent this poor puppy a letter that increased his health insurance costs by 21.8% over last year.

That was the second wind.

Had the health insurance companies instituted a premium freeze for 2010, not cut off existing customers regardless of circumstances and sent letters out with the message, “We’re all in this recession together, so we’re not going to increase your premiums,” they could have taken the wind right out of the sails of the Reformers. They would have convinced the average American they were not greedy, money-grubbig heartless bastards, but caring, warm folks who only had your health in their hearts.

They would have gained the entire GOP and most independents as free PR agents for their industry. “They get it, we can make a difference!” would have been the rally cry and the Obama Administration and progressive Democrats would have been left fighting an enemy that simply no longer existed. By August, the country and Congress would have been embroiled in a mid-term election with Democrats fighting to explain why they spent so much wasted time fighting the benevolent insurance companies. Most likely they would have lost a few seats and the balance of power would have tipped a bit. President Obama would have then had two years of accomplishing nothing and the insurance industry would have been healthy for the next several decades, free to plunder and pillage recklessly while Obama’s successor’s successor worked up enough public passion to start another health care reform movement.

But they didn’t. They rushed hard toward the profit line, cutting off aunt Sallie who had cancer and facing a home foreclosure. They dropped health insurance for residents in Flint, Michigan where unemployment is 27%. They continued to increase premiums an average of 22% across the country, claiming it was necessary because of rising health costs. They tightened their grip on the wallets of those lucky enough to remain employed and even tighter on the small businesses and entrepreneurs trying to weather the economic downturn and tight credit markets. And yet, they continue to post record profits.

Sometimes you have to retreat back a few steps to advance forward.

But they didn’t.

Bad business, bad public relations. On that account alone, the health insurance industry deserves to go the way of the horse buggy, passenger train and telegraph industries.

Insurance companies should fear people like Dr. Dave Ores more than any health care reform bill

Villager photo by Bonnie Rosenstock
Villager photo by Bonnie Rosenstock

While the politicians in Washington argue about how many uninsured people there really are, call each other liars and debate over eleventh-hour amendments, real people with real lives are not waiting around for some edict to determine their destiny. They get fed up, roll up their sleeves and get the job done themselves. And that is exactly with Dr. Dave Ores is doing.

Dr. Dave (as he in known locally) formalized his care for workers in the restaurant industry by founding the Restaurant Workers’ Health Care Cooperative. The healthcare cooperative is “an informal handshake” between the doctor and the participating restaurants. It is a not for profit health care delivery system that enables restaurant owners to provide health care to their employees, many of whom can not afford traditional insurance.

[What I’m doing] “should not be special, it should not be great. It should be the way things work,” Ores says in his CNN interview aired yesterday morning.

We agree. Health care should be not for-profit. When the profit is removed from health care, the measurement becomes “how well did we treat someone” verses “how much money did we make per patient.”

Dr. Dave is proving you don’t need to be rich or famous to change the world. You just need to care enough to get off your butt and do something for another human being, without expectation of reward. No big change ever happened without first being one small act, followed by another and another and another by someone who refused to give up.

Here is what CNN ran yesterday.

We found this photo published on the New York Daily News and had to include it. Apparently, Dr. Dave also founded the Eastminster Kennel Club Show, a spoof on the Westminster Dog Show. We knew there was another really cool reason we liked Dr. Dave! He is a dog person. (I wonder if he has a photo of Abe Lincoln in his office. That would complete the trifecta of a cool sit-com.)

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A metaphor for health insurance even Congress can understand


One of the arguments that always comes back about the number of uninsured is that 64% or so of Americans have insurance and like it. (WaPo)

But, what nobody is doing is actually looking at what the insurance really is. Here is a metaphor that I think might clear up what the insurance problem in this country really is.

Let’s say your insurance policy is a pile of money, or if you are in Congress reading this, a bag of money stuck in a freezer. The only hitch here is that some of these bills are counterfeit, but you don’t know which ones. When you pay for medical procedures, you can only pay for them using bills at the top going down. Obviously, when the medical provider gets paid, he is going to reject the counterfeit bills and want you to swap out real ones for them.

When you run out of a stack of money, you can no longer buy any more medical things. And, the money stack must stay on the table it is on (your job!) so if that gets taken away, the stack of money goes with it.

The 10-47 million uninsured folks are not really a problem. They will either die early or get treated minimally until they do. The real problem this country faces are the 260-197 million or so who have a stack of health insurance money, but have no idea which bills are real and which aren’t until they need to spend them.

Switch out enough bills for counterfeit ones and they will start buying pitchforks instead of CAT scans.

Health care reform my puppy butt

Yesterday, Keith Olbermann had a one-hour special comment about health insurance and health care in America. He has recently had a first-hand experience with his father.

I don’t know how much it cost to produce one hour of Countdown nor do I know what the lost opportunity costs are from insurance ad revenue MSNBC will probably never get because of this and having Wendall Potter as a frequent guest, but I do know how much influence this hour will have on moving the health care debate.

Zip. Nadda. Nothing.

If Keith Olbermann’s celebrity and MSNBC’s money and reach can’t even blow a little breeze into the health care debate in this country, what chance do any of us have of being heard? Exactly.

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Dear Minority Leader John Boehner; this I fear more

A few days ago, I saw a video of you saying that Americans most fear the US Federal Government is spending beyond it’s means and that we are leaving a mountain of debt to our kids and grandkids. (I can’t find it right now, but when I do, I’ll post it.)

I think you are wrong.

Here is a short list of things that I fear more than the Federal Government spending getting out of control.

– I fear that my health insurance company, Blue Cross/Blue Shield will send me a letter in March, 2010 stating they no longer want me as a customer because I am getting too old to be in the “sweet spot” of profitability for them. My insurance renews on April 1st of each year which gives me thirty days or less to find an insurance company to take me.

– I fear that I will have a heart attack during the next four years, causing me to spiral into bankruptcy during a time when my daughter most needs me to be able to help her with college tuition.

– I fear that the City of Englewood will assess me an outrageous fee to arbitrarily replace the curbs and water supply infrastructure in front of my house, oblivious to the recession going on around us.

– I fear that I will be diagnosed with a medical condition that my insurance company will not pay to treat.

– I fear that I will get a letter from some tax department in Ohio (county, city, state) claiming I owe a bucket of money to them and they will hang on like a rabid dog because they are running a deficit themselves.

– I fear that some of my right-wing, gun-happy, God-fearing neighbors will become irrationally scared of losing their country to “those who are not like us” that they will do something stupid that will endanger me, my family and my home.

– I fear US Representatives who can afford to live in West Chester, OH and stay tan all year losing touch with their constituency* and start erroneously claiming to know what Americans are most fearful of. I also fear these same Congressmen categorically dismiss and oppose ideas simply because they came from the “other party” with no thought or analysis.

– I fear the loss of rational thought and civil discourse.

– I fear the decline of the quality and breadth of education available to our younger generations that will further doom them to become less competitive in an increasingly global marketplace.

– I fear the increasing selfishness and short-sightedness of parents who teach their kids that the President of the United States of America is not worthy of their attention or respect.

– I fear a society that believes it to be permissible behavior that a Congressman disrespect a sitting US President in public. On TV.

There are many more things, but this list is probably long enough.

Mr. Boehner, I fear a lot of things more than I fear the US Federal Government putting us in debt. If you had to live in the day-to-day world that your actions in Congress create, you may possibly also share these fears.

Please, Mr. Boehner, please think before you talk in hyperbolic terms. Please think about what consequences your words have. Please think that possibly things like fear, hatred, distrust and violence may be a worse legacy to leave to our kids and grandkids than debt.


*I know, Mike Turner is my rep, but he never gets the microphone and doesn’t ever read my blog nor return phone calls.

Kill the beast! The public option in health care reform

The title of this post is taken from the lyrics of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and explains what the right is doing with the so-called public option of health care reform. Love or hate him, Robert Reich explains the public option clearly, at least to us who laugh at the notion of “competition” with insurance plans. In Ohio, there really is none and opening up competition across state lines would do little to change that.

We don’t like what we don’t understand and in fact it scares us, and this monster is mysterious at least.
Bring your guns, bring your knives, save children and and your wives, so save our village and our lives!

Chris Matthews is brilliant

Chris Matthews had John Velleco from the Gun Owners of America on Hardball yesterday. The interview was all about people bringing loaded weapons to presidential events, but he did something probably ad lib at the end of the interview (10:50 or so) that was brilliant. He asked an off the cuff question about whether or not Mr. Velleco was a “birther,” expecting a simple yes or no.


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What if Matthews did the same thing with health care reform? Every one of his guests should be asked, “Who is your insurance company?” “How much did you pay in premiums last year?” I’ll bet most of them would stumble around, revealing to the average American how little these pundits know about the real issues surrounding the health care debate.