Greater health care freedom, coverage

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I was sitting down in the Media Filing Center to begin to clear out some of by back blog, but as I sat down a convention staffer brought by Texas Congressman Michael Burgess. Burgess was here to talk about health care policy. He is an obstetrician and gynecologist, and in 2002 he succeeded Dick Armey in the 26th District, located in the northern part of the DFW Metroplex.

I'm in a rush to post, so I can go out on the floor for Tom Cole's speech (rescheduled from Monday), but in a nutshell, Burgess said that McCain's plan builds on the employer-funded insurance that serves 160 million Americans, but removes tax-code discrimination against those who purchase insurance individually. McCain's approach would make employer-funded premiums taxable, but there would be a $5,000 tax credit per family. So if you're employer pays, say $10,000 a year, for your health insurance and you're in the 25% tax bracket, your taxes would go down by $2,500 ($2,500 taxes on the employer-funded premiums, minus the $5,000 credit. If you're in the 10% bracket with the same plan, you'd be ahead by $4,000 under this plan. That net gain could be used to fund a Health Savings Account to cover out of pocket expenses or even to pay for an individually-owned plan.

McCain also wants to create greater choice for insurance buyers, so they can choose the right plan for the right cost from a coast-to-coast selection of companies, rather than being stuck with higher costs in their own states, driven by legislative coverage mandates.

The McCain team is also working on a guaranteed access provision to protect people with pre-existing conditions or in fragile health.

Burgess said that liability reform in Texas has made a huge difference in medical liability insurance costs. Overall cost of the plan he had as an obstetrician dropped by 22% after the passage of Proposition 12 in 2003. He said that this modest change in liability laws freed up non-profit hospitals to spend more on nurses, capital equipment, and other improvements to patient care, using money that used to go to insurance premiums.

There was a question about House's shortened schedule this fall. The House has less than 20 legislative days remaining. Burgess said that House Democrats are all running against President Bush, so House leadership doesn't want to give him the photo op of signing meaningful legislation.

Burgess said there is unlikely to be a lame-duck session, unless Obama wins. In that case, Congress may go ahead and act on a free trade agreement with Colombia, so that Bush can sign it, and it won't be waiting on Obama's desk when he's sworn in.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 4, 2008 5:19 PM.

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