Changes in Health Insurance

Yet another change in Health Insurance is on the horizon. I was looking at the proposed plans, and there seemed to be one common thread — the 40 percent excise tax is coming my way. People like me are looking at a one-year total of about $342 billion in increased taxes. As before, there is no help for me on the horizon. I am part of the old system and my kind of plan is now scorned.

I have what is known as a “Cadillac Health Plan,” a plan that offers great coverage with low deductibles. Approximately 155 million Americans receive their health insurance from their employer, in many cases through union negotiations. The tax exemption was decided upon sometime around the time of World War II.

Many of you may know that I have a strong union background, working for the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department, later as an organizer for AFSCME, and a Business Agent for a union in Memphis, Tennessee.  During my time in Memphis, I represented industrial workers in labor negotiations, and remember at times accepting salary increases to be less, in order to improve the health insurance plan. Shifting employees into high-deductible plans is one of the most common ways companies are avoiding the Cadillac tax, but that would be in conflict with the collective bargaining agreement. If they did move to higher deductible plans, it would also be a detriment to the worker, because it would increase out of pocket expenses.

It appears that the current law wants me to have less health insurance. I could see if they said self-insured plans that some companies offer was the real target of the program, but it wasn’t written that way.

America cannot really be compared to the European Health plans because, to a great extent, in Europe, the labor movement is represented by political parties. In the United States, during its existence, labor organizations have been granted tax-exempt status under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(5), and have not been a political party.

America is a capitalist nation, and probably rightfully adopted an employer-based health insurance approach for providing benefits. There was a time when health insurance meant hospitalization, rather than the current iteration of what is necessary to have in a plan.  Those where the days when Doctors made house calls. 

When I was a business agent in Memphis in 1974, we had 10,000 minority members out of maybe 11,000. I had people working on a motion time rate, which set a production incentive and sometimes the way the system was set up, it was tough to make minimum wage. To the member, every penny earned in contract negotiations was a victory. Trying to achieve full paid health plans was vital to their ability enrich their lives. These were plans that were designed to meet the needs of the worker, and provide as much benefit and keep the worker from leaving the employment opportunity.

I just do not see the logic of taxing the good health plans that many union workers bargained for in good faith over the years. The object of health care is to use it if you need it to prevent problems occurring down the line.

Increasing plan coverage with limited deductibles, the tax exclusion may lead to higher spending through greater demand for medical care. The relationship between plan lower deductibles and medical spending depends on how responsive spending is to out-of-pocket costs. It is argued that consumers respond to higher cost-sharing by reducing their use of services, particularly for more discretionary expenditures, rather than by seeking less costly providers.

We are not talking about very rich people on these plans, with a designation of $10,200 for a single person for health insurance covers most union and white-collar workers.  Why is it important to limit these folks’ access to health care, and at the same time use that tax to buy others health insurance. It appears that people making the laws are out of touch with the populous. 

A European health system had a different kind of start than the American system. There were years of Kings and Queens and a feudal system, where most people in America were born free.  The way people get to a point in history, and the kinds of social welfare system they offer, is a direct result of their history, political systems, mores and folkways.

I spent the first 15 years or so of my work life representing poor people. I secured exotic financing for them to buy houses and packaged in grants for them to be able to pay their utility bills in the winter. I think to very large extent, they want to be in charge of their own destiny. I say that based upon my experience in the field, which is extensive. Many would jump at the chance to buy hospitalization versus what they are forced to buy under Obamacare. 

For years and years and years, hospitalization was all that was necessary. By creating add-ons that people must have for health insurance, it drives up the cost and makes them dependent on the public dole through a system that they do not understand.

Health insurance to a great extent should be between the employer and the worker, and if the worker cannot make headway, he or she should exercise their rights to organize and collectively bargain as a group.  Then, eventually over the years, that leads to good health care “Cadillac plan.” It is a classic struggle in the capitalist system, between the worker and the employer to define the role of wages, hours, and working conditions. Wages were considered as benefit packages since the 1930s and striking workers against the like of Pinkerton thugs fought hard to achieve the wages and benefits they have today.

One cannot forget the context of the health care initiative, which seeks to change it so everyone is the same. That is because everyone is not the same. We all start out the same but our experience, drive and luck all figure in to whether you retire comfortably or end up homeless or dead.