A New Can Of Worms
26 December 2003
Governor: No tax hikes

Now, if we could just get the Republicans in this state to take this line.

23 December 2003
Health IRA's

The Chicago Sun-Times today notes that the Bush Administration is beginning to market MSA's:

"The Bush administration advertised new tax-free health savings accounts, which will be available next week. To escape taxation on both contributions and withdrawals, dollars set aside in the accounts must be spent for medical expenses."

They are an excellent idea whose time has come, however the libs are up in arms:

"Critics contend the accounts establish a tax shelter for the wealthy and enable future accounts to let affluent families evade taxes.

They also worry that the accounts will increase health costs gradually for many people by drawing young, healthy and affluent people out of the general pool of health insurance into high-deductible insurance plans. Never mind there isn't a single pool of health insurance, but thousands of small ones. If anything, by adding individuals to the health care market place MSA's are additive.

''If health savings accounts prove popular, as congressional scorekeepers expect, low-deductible insurance will gradually become more expensive or even disappear,'' wrote tax expert Leonard Burman and health expert Linda Blumberg of the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank.

Burman and Blumberg said that would hurt the sick and the poor most, but it also could affect middle-income wage earners if their employers should switch to higher-deductible group plans."

Here is Burman and Blumberg's piece at the Urban Institute web site. Their piece is heavy on allegations but weak on evidence. They appear to be more interested in scoring class warfare points than looking at the pro's and cons of MSA's.

They claim that the poor won't have access to MSA's. Well, there is nothing to prevent the Medicaid program for picking up the tab for high deductible insurance and subsidizing annual deposits. Putting money directly in people's hands and allowing them to make decisions will help drive down costs. Of course Burman and Blumberg also believe that people aren't capable of making these decisions:

"Second, high-income people can afford the risk of a high deductible. $2,000 in unreimbursed medical costs is a huge burden for someone earning $30,000 per year, but chump change for someone earning $300,000. Employers may kick in part of the deductible out of their premium savings, but those savings are expected to be dwarfed by the deductible. Thus, modest-income families in these high- deductible plans may be tempted to skip preventive care or delay medical tests and services when illness strikes."

I guess only government knows what's best, unh?

In the beginning, the wealthy probably will be able to take bigger advantage of the program. However, one way to get rich is to take advantage of the program because the money you stow away will earn interest. With regard to the young and healthy being able to take advantage these plans while the old and sick can't. Well, under the current system the young and healthy are subsidizing the old and infirm and with population trends as they are there will be fewer and fewer "young and healthy" to take care of today's wage earners in the future. How the hell is that fair? Finally, nothing in MSA's says that we won't still pay into Medicare and Medicaid. So, I'm sure that the old and sick will continue to receive their benefits, despite Burman and Blumberg's claims.

Of Course We Want To Control The Rest Of Your Life

In Today's Chicago Tribune:

"''We will use the principles of the free market to bring prices down here at home,'' said Emanuel, a co-sponsor of a bill to allow drugs to be bought from Canada and other countries that passed the House on a 243-186 vote earlier this year but never was incorporated into the final Medicare prescription drug legislation."

The FDA focusses on the safety issue because that is their mandate. When one examines the economic issues behind reimportation one quickly realizes that it won't work. Just four or five US states equal the entire Canadian population. Does anyone really believe that a) reimportation will bring down prices or b) that even a marginal set of the US population will have access to these?

If the Governor was really interested in saving money for state workers and Medicaid recipients, he would look at managed care -- which Illinois is way below the national average in; better case management; evidenced based medicine, medical savings accounts and on and on.

The Governor claims he can save the state $90 million a year based on suspect supporting claims. I say to begin with I can save the state $100 million per year just to start. I can then move on to more novel policy prescriptions -- and I hope the Institute is able to open that bidding war soon.

Hot Rod's prescription drug grandstanding does little more than appeal to people's greed. Let's face it, the reason people won't drink Mexican water, yet are more than happy to pop Mexican chemicals is because they think they are getting away with something. People will take dumbest risks for a pay off -- casinos are the best example. Yet, I have faith that Hot Rod's appeals to our base vices will only get him so far.

My sense is that the precription drug reimportation is a mile wide and an inch deep. It's like immigration limitations, people may be for them but they won't vote on it.

US Foreign Policy In 2 Words

"You're next," writes Amitay Shlaes.
21 December 2003
Revolving Press Door Continues to Spin

Bernard Schoenburg's Column breaks this news:

"REBECCA RAUSCH, who has covered state government and politics for WICS-Channel 20, is joining the staff of Gov. ROD BLAGOJEVICH as a Springfield-based spokeswoman.

“I’m really ecstatic,” Rausch said of the move into government. “I always knew that I would eventually cross over into the public relations side.”

She said she hadn’t been sure when she would make that move, but the stars aligned to bring on the change now. Her contract with the Springfield TV station ends Jan. 1, and the governor has been looking for someone in his Springfield press office. She’ll be paid $65,000 annually, which she said will be a pay increase."

Jeff Trigg, along similar lines, has been pointing out that the press corps has been slow to catch on to the scandals in Illinois. Let me suggest an answer. The Rausch hire is just one more example of how statehouse reporters cash in.

On the other hand, I do agree with Schownburg's observation that she did improve things at Channel 20 in Springfield.

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