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All Americans Deserve Affordable Health Insurance

April 18, 2002
E-Newsletter
All Americans Deserve Affordable Health Insurance

Jerry and Susan Johnson live in Azle with their two children, Ashley and Aaron. Susan works two jobs for the Azle Independent School District and Jerry is on disability due to a hereditary ailment. The Johnsons, like 39 million other Americans, and one in four Texans, do not have health insurance. Families and individuals who are uninsured face difficult choices everyday. With the rising cost of care, families are often forced to roll the dice with their health on the line. Imagine a mother preparing to give birth, a father with diabetes, or a child with asthma. The mother without prenatal care is much more likely to deliver a low-birth weight baby or one with more severe health problems. As for the diabetic father, complications of diabetes are largely preventable with early detection and treatment, but with no health insurance, treatment most often comes in an emergency room with loss of a leg or diabetic coma. The neglected child with asthma loses out on opportunities to learn and interact with his classmates. The cost of health insurance may be high, but the physical, emotional, and financial cost of no insurance is even greater and is already born by all of us. What’s worse is that this problem is growing. Analysts predict that another ten million people will be added to the ranks of the uninsured in the next ten years. This is due partly to increasing health care costs, but an unfair and regressive tax code adds to the problem. The current tax laws, developed in 1954, provide a big benefit for the rich, but give moderate wage earners very little. A 1999 study conducted by economists at the Lewin Group found that the average health insurance tax subsidy for families earning less than $15,000 was $79 annually, compared with $2,638 for families earning more than $100,000. Put simply, those who need no help obtaining insurance receive a hefty tax break from the government, while those who are in greatest need are left with little or no assistance. We must eliminate this inequality. Individuals and families who do not get health insurance from an employer should also receive a tax benefit for the purchase of coverage. I believe the best way to relieve this inequality is through a refundable tax credit that can be prepaid to an insurer. This would allow a worker to assign his tax benefit up front to an insurance provider and immediately begin receiving his discounted coverage. This system of purchasing health coverage directly from an insurer has several advantages. First, it allows maximum choice of plans. Instead of having to rely on an employer for health insurance options, a family can choose from the entire range of plans available in their area. Second, by buying directly, families can keep their preferred policy as they change jobs and even employment status. This is particularly beneficial to people with pre-existing conditions. Third, without an employer in the middle, a policy holder has a direct and unambiguous right to sue his insurance company for contract violation. The prevailing employer-based health insurance system serves most Americans well. It should not be disturbed. But it is clear that a parallel system must be created to fill in the gaps. Those who currently have insurance may wonder how the epidemic of the uninsured effects them. The reality is that expanded coverage brings down costs and keeps our country healthier. Wouldn’t we rather treat the diabetic with an insulin shot in his home, than with an amputation in an emergency room. It’s common sense and good health care. On April 25th, A Democratic Congressman from Maryland, Albert Wynn, and I will introduce the bipartisan Secure Access Value and Equality (SAVE) in Health Care Act. This legislation would provide each individual with a pre-payable, fully refundable tax credit toward the purchase of health insurance. The credit would be $1,000 for individuals, $2,000 for married couples, and $500 per dependent, up to $3,000 per family. An additional 50 percent will be added for any additional premiums to assist those with higher costs. This bill builds on what works in our current system and gives families like the Johnsons the quality affordable health care they deserve. Learn more about my plan to help all Americans afford health insurance

  By Congresswoman Kay Granger