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I want to thank Robert Roper, of Freedom Works-Vermont, for his criticism of my essay on the Vermont Legislature's proposed health care reform. Mr. Roper's critique, published in the Aug. 15 issue of The Times Argus, completely missed or ignored the concerns that I raised about the Health Care Choice Act while simultaneously illustrating what lies at the core of our whole health care problem: Who can afford it?
Mr. Roper cited U.S. House bill H2355 as one of the "common sense" solutions to our high cost of health care. Under this bill, if passed, people in Vermont and other states could purchase health insurance from outside their states. "This would mean, for example," Mr. Roper wrote, "that an average Vermont family of four now paying $771 for a policy with a $2,000 deductible, 20 percent co-insurance, could buy the same policy for as little as $172 per month ($2064 per year) out of Kansas City, Mo. This bill is one part of a common-sense solution that would reduce the cost of health care."
But how much does this policy really cover? Not much. An individual in St. Louis, for an example, can pay about $85 for a basic, rock-bottom health insurance policy with a $3,000 deductible. This is according to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Missouri's Web site. The common-sense problem here is how many people can actually afford these premiums, the $2,000 to $3,000 deductible, and the co-payment for health insurance? How can a small business barely scraping by each week or a wage-earner on $6 to $8 an hour living from paycheck to paycheck handle a $2,000 to $3,000 deductible plus an extra $85 a month, $1,020 a year?
Mr. Roper is also concerned about a higher tax rate with a single-payer system. Would the taxes be as high as a $2,000 to $3,000 deductible, plus the yearly premiums, plus the various co-pays? He also cited the danger of the government being able to repossess one's house in lieu of back taxes for health care. This is good. But during my father's illness it was not the public sector that came to re-possess our home because of excessively high medical bills that we could not pay as our health insurance continually denied the claims. It was the private sector — the banks and the bill collectors — that wanted our home. Fortunately, we had a sympathetic lawyer on our side.
Under HR2355, if passed, we will probably need more sympathetic lawyers.