Health Insurance

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been thinking about something he heard on NPR for a few days now. On June 4th your Maximum Leader was driving about in the Villainmobile and wanted to raise his blood-pressure some by listening to NPR. That day they played one of the few token commentaries aimed at people of your Maximum Leader’s political tendencies. The commentary (audio link from NPR.org) was by Dr. Merrill Matthews of the Institute for Policy Innovation.

In case you are not planning on listening to what Matthews had to say, allow your Maximum Leader to summarize the key idea. Health insurance is, by and large, an employer benefit extended to workers. This grew out of an IRS ruling stating that corporations could deduct health insurance costs from their corporate income taxes. Matthews went on to say that this system may have well suited us in the 1950s-1970s when American workers didn’t change jobs often. But now that workers change jobs with some frequency, we ought to consider new ways of approaching private health insurance. Matthews suggested that organizations and interest groups provide health insurance for their members. He cited how the AARP grew in the 1960s because it provided health insurance for retired workers before the creation of Medicare. Matthews suggests that people, who are likely to change jobs frequently, are not as likely to change the organizations to which they belong. For example, you may change jobs, but you will likely belong to Greenpeace or the NRA for a long time. Why not allow Greenpeace or the NRA to be your health care insurer?

Your Maximum Leader is fascinated by this idea. Your Maximum Leader, for one, would prefer to get his health insurance through some organization with which he wants to affiliate. The NRA is a fine example. If you agree with the goals and aims of the NRA, and they offered you a health plan that would meet your needs why wouldn’t you go with them? The NRA is a larger organization than most businesses. (Since most of American businesses are small businesses.) They would have more organizational buying power than would most businesses. They could fight for lower costs, and win.

Using this method might also allow you to buy health insurance that believes in the things you believe. Let’s say, for argument, that you are a Roman Catholic man. And you adhere to most of the teachings of the Catholic Church. You might prefer to be covered through the Knights of Columbus. The Knights policy might not offer coverage in health-related areas that are not in accord with Catholic theology. For example, any sort of birth control for your wife (or daughter) might not be covered.

But what if you’re not a traditional Catholic man? Suppose you want birth control covered? And elective abortions? Well, if you are a woman, you might want your health insurance covered through the National Organization for Women. (And if your Maximum Leader is not mistaken, men may also join NOW. But your Maximum Leader would be surprised if they chose to cover Viagra prescriptions.)

Of course, this type of plan is fraught with potential problems. The first and foremost would be the most self-evident. Would corporations pay wrkers in salary the amount they are now paying for health insurance? Especially since that salary isn’t tax deductible any more. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you are executive assistant to a VP in your company. You currently earn $19.23/hr (or about $40K/year) before taxes. Your fully-loaded cost to the company (salary and insurance) might be closer to $25/hr (or about $52K/year). Would your employer, if he did not provide health insurance under the plan we are discussing, actually pay the worker $25/hr?

Your Maximum Leader is inclined to believe most small businesses would gladly pay workers the money to save themselves the headache of managing their own health insurance plans. (A non-employer-based plan may be fairer to small business owners who are prohibited from participating in their own company plans - but would not be prohibited from joining an organization.) Big corporations (GE, IBM, Microsoft types) might be disinclined to do so. Although one would have to see how much savings they could realize by eliminating the huge departments that currently administer their employee health insurance plans.

The next big problem would likely be the tax status of the organizations that choose to offer insurance. How would the NRA be classified if in addition to being a not-for-profit interest group and (potentially) one of the largest providers of health insurance in the land?

There are many vexing issues here. But these are ideas that ought to be explored further. This idea is one that could provide less-expensive comprehensive medical care to most Americans. It also might help to fight political apathy among many Americans. If you get your health insurance statement and it also included a list of Bills before the Congress that relate to issues in which you’re interested, wouldn’t you pay closer attention to what your Congressman was doing? Would you like a helpful notice indicating that your prescription co-pay for Lasix is going up; but if your state legislature passes HR-1234, ammunition for your .45 will be cheaper and you can more easily afford to lower your blood pressure by shooting off a few rounds at the range?

Fascinating subject. Your Maximum Leader will attempt to find some other White Papers on this subject and read over them.

Carry on.

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