When the occasion arises for [passage deleted by the NCPA's internal editorial censor], our friends at the Commonwealth Fund rarely disappoint. A new publication recommends five ideas, all designed to keep laid off workers in their former employer's plan or to enroll them in Medicaid. Neither option is what people want or need.
Three of the recommendations (some versions of which are likely to be included in the final economic stimulus package) are as follows:
- Extend from 18 to 24 months the period in which people can remain in their former employer's health plan by paying the full premium plus 2%.
- Provide a government subsidy for such options equal to $342 per month (individuals) or $907 per month (families).
- Let Medicaid top up the subsidy for low-income families, bringing the total government contribution to $392 per month (individual) or $1,057 per month (family).
Ask yourself this question: If you had billions of dollars for health insurance subsidies, is that the way you would spend it?
What people who are transitioning in the labor market really need is insurance that is private, portable (traveling with them from job to job) and tailored to their own individual and family needs. They are most likely to find such insurance not at their former place of work, but in the marketplace.
Here is a way to use those same dollars to get better results:
- Give everyone (not just recently laid off workers) who must purchase insurance on his own the same tax break currently given to people who get insurance through an employer.
- Use Medicaid funds to provide additional premium support for low-income families.
- Let people use their tax/Medicaid subsidy to choose from the full array of plans that compete in the marketplace.