By now, there's been a lot of discussion about Pres. Bush's proposal to allow a personal tax deduction for health care. But I'd like to ask a few questions:
* How many people with employer-sponsored health insurance actually know how much their employer spends on such coverage?
* How many people with employer-sponsored health insurance have coverage for things they don't need? If you're a young single man, do you really OB/GYN coverage? If you and your spouse are finished having children, do you need maternity, well-baby or child immunization coverage? If you're a healthy individual, do you need prescription coverage?
* If you had to select your coverage and pay for itself, would your employer plan be the one you choose?
In most cases, employers select a plan that meets the needs of most, if not all, their employees. This means that individuals are getting - and paying for - coverage they don't need and probably don't want. And with it being paid for by the employer, few have a good idea of just what such coverage is costing.
The President's proposal is an attempt to put the consumer in charge of selecting and paying for the coverage that fits their needs - with the same tax breaks companies have gotten for the cost. You don't let your employer select your car insurance, homeowners/renters insurance or life insurance, why do you want them to select something much more important like your health insurance?
Most insurance companies offer packages with the biggest difference being amount of deductible, out-of-pocket expenses and networks. A company with a diverse staff likes such packages because it meets their needs. But does it meet your individual needs? If consumers need variety in their packages and they're now in charge of making such choices and paying for them, insurance companies will respond to such demands and the health insurance field will change dramatically - hopefully for the better.
This is point of the proposal - to inject a sense of the free market into the system by allowing the actual consumer of services to select the ones they want and be responsible for paying for them and by allowing the insurance providers to tailor their products to the actual needs of the consumer.
I have no idea if this will work or if the concept will be butchered in Congress or by special interests as the proposal makes its way through the process. But, this is the first time in a long time that anyone has looked at letting the individual be in charge of such decisions - and its certainly worthy of discussion.
UPDATE: I wanted to share a column with you on this subject...Linda Chavez's "How to cure the health insurance crisis."