Back in January, I noted Republican Congressional candidate Dan Sebring, who’s challenging Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore in the fourth Congressional district, didn’t have much in the way of a health care reform plan, other than proposing a three-tiered health care system:
I would like to see a three tiered health care system. One where participants would take and annual “means test” to determine their financial ability to contribute to their own health care costs. Families and individuals living in poverty and haven’t the ability to contribute to their own health care costs would not have to pay the cost of health care.
Families and individuals who it has been determined by the “means test” to have the ability to make a co-payment towards the cost of their health care would have to make a co-payment towards the cost of their health care based on their ability to pay. Families and individuals for whom the “means test” has determined can afford to buy private health insurance would be required to either buy their own health insurance or pay the full cost of their own health care. To participate in this health care system you must take the “means test” and you must be a legal resident. While no one would be refused medical treatment, non-participants would be required to pay the full cost of their own health care.
Since noting in January that Sebring’s health care reform plan lacked any substantive details, it’s been pointed out to me that Sebring has now adopted a health care reform plan written by Nathan Sass, who just happens to be an employee of health insurance company Wellpoint. Sebring’s new health care reform plan has 15 points, and while I’m not going to touch on each of the 15 points, there are a few I believe are worth picking apart.
1. Medical Insurance companies will convert to Medical Financing companies.
And no doubt these new Medical Financing companies will be as motivated by profit as they were when they were health insurance companies, so no doubt they’ll find ways to turn a profit at the expense of their customers.
5. The Finance Company charges a minimal interest on the balance (i.e. Prime plus) and the debt is legally non-dischargeable in the same manner student loans are today.
The debt is legally non-dischargeable…in other words, individuals or families who accumulate medical debt won’t be able to erase that debt if they file for bankruptcy, putting them on the hook forever, especially if they’ve already used up their “once per lifetime” repayment of that debt as noted in point 11 of the Sass/Sebring plan. No doubt health insurance companies would love this point in the Sass/Sebring plan.
7. Finance Companies can leverage their in force agreements with providers and offer their members the ability to use their “volume discount pricing” if they so choose.
As my wife (who read the plan with me) asked, what’s to stop providers from simply opting not to accept the particular insurer/finance company’s plan? How would the medical finance companies have any more leverage than insurance companies have right now?
10. Recognizing the moral imperative that no person should be faced with massive debt when entering or leaving this world, the Federal Government agrees to assume the costs for child birth and for catastrophic care for specified conditions (i.e. Cancer, HIV/AIDS, etc.).
This is certainly a great idea, but here’s the problem: what about all those costs for treatment that doesn’t include childbirth and catastrophic care for specified conditions? The cost of medical treatment for even non-catastrophic situations can be steep, as evidenced by my wife’s recent trip to the emergency room for a broken ankle/torn ligament, a trip that ended up costing several thousand dollars for a visit by a doctor, a few x-rays of her ankle, and a prescription for pain medicine. Given that our family visits the emergency room a couple of times a year, we’d incur several thousands of dollars of medical debt per year under the Sass/Sebring plan, leaving us with minimum monthly payments that would continue to go up and up and up, and no doubt that debt would take just as long to retire as credit card debt if only the minimum monthly payment is made.
11. Low income individuals can qualify for Federal subsidies on their membership costs, and a limited once per lifetime repayment of incurred debt by the Federal Government should they chose to exercise it. This would be the only forgiveness of such debt allowed by law.
While I certainly agree individuals and families with lower incomes would need subsidies to help cover their membership costs, I can’t help but wonder what happens when they’re unable to pay their monthly payments if they incur health care costs? If they need a subsidy to cover their yearly membership cost, they’re not likely to be able to make monthly payments towards whatever costs they “charge,” and while a one-time debt forgiveness plan is great, what happens after that? If these cards you’d give to folks to charge their health care costs are run like credit cards, once folks hit 60 or 90 days overdue on their payments, they’ll be sent to collection, and if they’ve already used up their once per lifetime repayment, they’re essentially screwed. What’s more, as noted in point 5, this debt would be non-dischargeable, meaning individuals and families would be stuck with the debt forever if they had already used up their “once per lifetime” repayment of debt by the government.