Thursday, October 16, 2008

on health care

Graduating college means more than the end of late night paper writing, cramming, and skipping class. It means getting a job, figuring out your own taxes, repaying college loans, avoiding massive credit card debt, and choosing a health care plan. To me it meant picking the one that wasn't the HMO (because the giraffe in Madagascar thinks they're bad), and coughing up 200$ every month for the 20% of my premium that my job doesn't cover.

I haven't really used the insurance yet...can't figure out how to choose a doctor. I'm tempted to stick with my pediatrician, even though I'd have to drive 70 plus miles to get to him. I like the wallpaper in his office, the highlights magazines, and the way it always smells like dymatap and baby powder. I need to make some appointments, so that my teeth don't fall out and to make sure I have all my important shots, like for rabies and smallpox. But since the provisions of the plan are printed in a font you need a magnifying glass to read, I have to trust that the promises made on the flyer I was given initially will actually hold true. As in, my co-pay for routine visits is small and manageable, prescriptions are affordable, and if I have a son he gets a free circumcision (this was a huge selling point).
One of the sweet deals about my current plan is that I don't get taxed on it. It seems to be the one thing in life I am not paying taxes for. (Because I am considered an 'independent contractor' by America, I pay quarterly taxes--translation: I hemorrhage money to the government every 4 months. Not that I have a problem with paying theory.) However, if a certain Republican were to make it into the White House this election, his health care plan would throw a serious hitch in my getalong. It would cramp my style. It would make me considerably poorer.
Here is the reader's digest version of the McCain health care plan, as I understand it: Workers must pay taxes on the contribution their employers make to the policy premium. To offset this, he offers 2500$ to individuals and 5000$ to families in the form of a tax credit (What is a tax credit? Where is this money coming from?) to be applied toward the cost of obtaining coverage. His plan would deregulate the insurance market, allowing "any insurance policy approved in any state to be sold in every state (Brownstein of the National Journal)." His goal here is consumer choice.
Ok so it sounds kind of nice, right? Wrong. Let's take a look at 'tax credit'. Does that mean McCain is going to send me 2500$? Nope. That money goes directly from the government to the insurance company you choose. I'm currently with United Health. My monthly premium is 1000$ (outrageous, right? But again, that circumcision). So I'm looking at 9500$ a year for the privilege of having health care. We're not sure if I'm going to need brain surgery, or get hit by a car, or be abducted by aliens. In all cases my treatment is (in general) 80% covered. But wait, there's more. I have to pay taxes on that 9500$ as if it was extra income, so long as I choose health care provided by my employer. And when I did some research on other, non-employer sponsored plans prior to signing up to the one offered at work, I found that the good ones (that covered circumcision) were even more expensive!

While I dislike what I've gathered about McCain's plan from the newspapers, I take issue with Obama's campaign misrepresenting that same plan. Take a look at today's Washington Post article on the subject. Scaring people with partially factual information is not classy, Obama!

So I'm on a mission here to better understand the plans both candidates have for our nation's health care system before election day. I'm really concerned that my future sons won't have their circumcisions covered.

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