Third Party & Independents Archives

A Tale of Two Health Care Plans

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. The best of times because I still have a job that offers health care benefits and the worst of times because I recently had to use them. A few weeks ago I had my first trip to the hospital and it was an eye opening experience to be sure. I am happy to report that everything turned out well and the overall experience will not have a negative effect on my health or my finances. I received good treatment from the local hospital and I enjoyed the peace of mind that comes from knowing that I was not going to face financial hardships because of it. I am lucky. I wish all Americans could have the same peace of mind when it comes to health care.

Sitting in a hospital bed for about a week gave me a lot of time watch TV and read the news. During my stay the story broke about the kidnapping of Tom Hamill in Iraq. There was a certain amount of irony in watching this story unfold from a hospital bed as it seems that Mr. Hamill was in Iraq driving a truck for Halliburton to help pay his bills after the failure of his dairy business. A good portion of those bills stemmed from a heart condition his wife has that requires surgery. Mr. Hamill is a well liked hard working guy from Macon Mississippi who fell victim of the Bush economy and was forced to put himself in harms way to provide for his family. To say that this story just about broke my heart as I sat safely in the United States with my healthcare taken care of (at least for now!) is an understatement.

Unfortunately Mr. Hamill’s story is not unique. There are about 15,000 contract workers in Iraq helping to rebuild that country and so far 30 of them have been killed. By and large these are ordinary people placing themselves in extraordinary and dangerous situations to provide a better life for themselves and their families. It seems as though all the wonderful statistics proffered up to show Americans how strong the economy is and how it is growing doesn’t mean much when you can’t afford health insurance and are at risk of losing everything you have worked for. I pray for the safe return of Mr. Hamill along with all our contractors and soldiers who are in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan. I pray that we can bring them back to a country where the basic necessities of life are attainable for every American and where the American dream is not held hostage by the greed of the privileged few.

Note: The tax benefits to be realized by Bush and his cabinet from the 2003 tax cuts are estimated to be between $800,000 and $3.2 million. Cheney is the big winner in all this saving somewhere around $300,000 to $800,000. Let’s split the difference and say that Bush and his cabinet are going to see around $2 million extra in their pockets due to the 2003 tax cuts. I did some checking and it seems that if your job does not provide any healthcare benefits you could be looking at about $4,000 per year for healthcare insurance for you and your family. This means that the tax break for Bush and his cabinet could have provided health insurance for about 500 needy families. Which option sounds better to you?

Note: A recent story on the NY Times has noted, “The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission voted Thursday to allow employers to reduce or eliminate health benefits for retirees when they become eligible for Medicare at age 65”. It seems as though once you qualify for Medicare you don’t need your personal health benefits so employers should be free to take it away from you. Isn’t that grand? The government wants to take something away from you that you have worked your entire life for because they have determined you don’t need it. Bully for them. Of course if I pointed out that Bush’s cabinet probably doesn’t need the extra $2 million they are pocketing due to the 2003 tax cuts I could be accused of class warfare.

Posted by William Flynn at April 24, 2004 6:25 PM