Wednesday, October 07, 2009

By degrees

We're blessed to live in a country that offers us some protections. The poor can get food, shelter, and healthcare. Not quite up to European standards (and our standard of living isn't quite as high as, say, Norway's), but not too bad.
But the way these systems work can create problems.
For example, let's say your family can get Medicaid if you make $16,000 or less a year. If you make $16,001, you can't get Medicaid. Now, Medicaid is worth a lot more than one dollar. So, really, you get more benefits if you work just a little bit less. With the price of health insurance these days, those benefits can be quite significant.
An intelligent government healthcare plan would, like Medicaid, be based on the poverty line. But it would change by degrees. If you make less than 80% of the poverty line, you'd get Medicaid for free. At 80%, you'd pay a small fee for Medicaid. That fee would increase slightly at 90% of the poverty level, and continue increasing slightly, depending on your income and family size, until you're paying for it at cost.
That way, no one gets a significantly better deal by working less, poor people have an incentive to work, and those who make just over 90% of the poverty level don't get screwed over (like they do now).
Of course, all of this would require some sort of government option--but the government option already exists. You just have to stop working to get it. And that's the problem.


alison said...

Arizona has health care by degrees. If an individual or family doesn't qualify for gov't health care, they can pay a nominal fee (seriously, like $25 a month if they're right outside the poverty range, and progressively more) to insure the children; the monthly fee is larger (something around $85) to insure an entire family. And it becomes more and more expensive as a family's income increases.

So, I don't know that the federal gov't can do that, but that's why we have states, to try out new things and find out if they work. That way, if it works, other states can emulate their programs, and if it doesn't, the entire country isn't screwed over. :)

(We qualify for the nominal fee insurance, but don't know how well it works, since our application hasn't been processed yet. It's been several weeks. It is, after all, the government. :)

Tim said...

Sounds like Arizona is a lot smarter.
The states as laboratories idea is great, but the problem is some states are just plain retarded, and never learn. In fact, I would argue that the world has changed since the "states as laboratories" idea was first proposed, and the US can now look at other first-world countries (many of them which set up governments based off ours) for ideas. Arizona's plan sounds like something that obviously works, and should immediately be picked up by every other state--but it's just not happening. In that case, I think the federal government can and should adopt the program.
I think Ohio has Medicaid because they have to (it is, after all, a federal program)--but they do the minimum amount possible because they can (and because they're backwards like that).
Good luck with the whole application process.

Katrina said...

I totally agree. I hate that our government programs promote laziness, procrastination, and no planning for the future. (For example, the ONLY reason we don't qualify for food stamps right now is that we have too much savings. But if we went out and spent that money to buy a bigger car for our family, we could also get food stamps. So backwards! But then, in some ways we don't want to rely on the government that way.) And I was going to say just what Alison already did. When we lived in AZ and had a regular teaching job, we were just enough over the income limit to have to pay an amount every month--but we paid it happily, grateful that it was $80 a month instead of $500. And then when we added another person to our family, that amount went down to $10.

Tim said...

Yes, the foodstamp thing is ridiculous.
I could do another whole post on how the foodstamp program should be run like WIC--give people coupons for certain things so they can't buy potato chips and candy with government money (especially since its the government that pays for them when they have a heart attack from all that junk food, since the people on foodstamps are probably also going to be on Medicaid).
And basing foodstamps off of savings is just plain dumb.

Katrina said...

Ditto. Food stamps SHOULD be specified like WIC. The least the government could do would be to help people learn to eat healthily if they're going to get the help. Last night I went grocery shopping and the lady in front of me bought nothing but three or four cartons of ice cream--with food stamps. I thought it was pretty ironic as most of my items were fresh produce and I was paying for everything.

JorgenMan said...

Your suggestion is similar to how federal income taxes work (which is often misunderstood), where the first (roughly) $8,000 an individual earns is taxed at 10%, the next $25,000 are taxed at 15%, the next $50,000 are taxed at 25%, and so on. So, even though the next dollar you earn might be taxed more than the last, it doesn't cause all the other money you made to be taxed more. In other words, you'll never lose money by earning one more dollar.

Tim said...

It's an obvious solution, and I certainly based it off the federal income tax system. I didn't know Arizona was already doing it, or I would've based it off the Arizona system instead.
Sadly, obvious doesn't mean reality...