Brummett thinks Bush's effort to change the subject tonight in the State of the Union to health care will probably fall flat, though not entirely on merit.
Bush, at 28 percent approval in CBS' latest, in fact will fall flat because his health plan is about as bright as his war policy. Tax deductions for health insurance are worthless for people who can't buy health insurance because they already can't make ends meet. Penalize workers with good health insurance? Give a further tax break to the rich? Only a Bush could think this makes sense. Wrote Krugman yesterday:
What’s driving all this is the theory, popular in conservative circles but utterly at odds with the evidence, that the big problem with U.S. health care is that people have too much insurance — that there would be large cost savings if people were forced to pay more of their medical expenses out of pocket.
The administration also believes, for some reason, that people should be pushed out of employment-based health insurance — admittedly a deeply flawed system — into the individual insurance market, which is a disaster on all fronts. Insurance companies try to avoid selling policies to people who are likely to use them, so a large fraction of premiums in the individual market goes not to paying medical bills but to bureaucracies dedicated to weeding out “high risk” applicants — and keeping them uninsured.
I’m somewhat skeptical about health care plans, like that proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, that propose covering gaps in the health insurance market with a series of patches, such as requiring that insurers offer policies to everyone at the same rate. But at least the authors of these plans are trying to help those most in need, and recognize that the market needs fixing.
Mr. Bush, on the other hand, is still peddling the fantasy that the free market, with a little help from tax cuts, solves all problems.
The answer is simple, though not yet on the table. Single-payer national health insurance.
UPDATE: Ernie Dumas shares Krugman's view of the folly of Bush's idea, but points Gov. Mike Beebe in a way he could join other states in being part of the solution. We've posted his column early this week for its timeliness.