Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gingrich & Goodman Idea #6: "Protect Early Retirees"

In their "Ten GOP ideas" piece, Newt Gingrinch and John C. Goodman observe,
More than 80% of the 78 million baby boomers will likely retire before they become eligible for Medicare. This is often the most difficult time for individuals and families to find affordable insurance.
That, of course, is why 60 Democratic Senators supported a Medicare buy-in for those workers, right up to the point somebody yanked Joe Lieberman's chain and caused him to flip-flop. Moreover, the Democratic Party was apparently more attuned to the actual needs of people who need health insurance but have not yet reached retirement age, because they did not require that a worker retire young before qualifying for the buy-in. If Gingrich and Goodman truly see this as a serious issue, as the Democrats do, why aren't they endorsing that solution?

Instead, they propose that "employers to obtain individually owned insurance for their retirees at group rates". Individual policies at group rates... they truly don't see a tension between those two concepts? Given that some of these individuals will be retiring early due to health problems, what do you think is going to happen to those rates? Insurance companies are already notorious for jacking small employer group rates through the roof when even one employee comes down with a costly illness, such as cancer. Do Gingrich and Goodman picture that the "group rate" concept will be preserved because the insurer will dump that individual, or do they simply not care that the "group rate" would quickly become unaffordable?

Gingrich and Goodman propose that employers help employees save for retirement by using health savings accounts; great, but in case they haven't noticed, most people don't have a lot of extra cash lying around these days. And what happened to the idea that we should break the tie between health insurance and employment? They also propose that "some or all of the premium amount for post-retirement insurance" go into a retiree's health savings account. "Some" meaning that the retiree has to pay an amount above and beyond the cost of insurance - because so many retirees have extra cash lying around to add to their savings accounts. "All" meaning that there is in fact no insurance, just a health savings account. Seriously....

Really, if Goodman, Gingrich and the GOP cared about early retirees, or people nearing the age of retirement who have difficulty obtaining or affording private insurance, but did not want to directly subsidize private insurance at a rate that would make it affordable to that high-cost group, they would be on board with the Medicare buy-in. Instead, they make noises and blow smoke, hoping that you don't notice that their "idea" isn't viable. Not one Republican vote for a Medicare buy-in? Tell me again, just how much the GOP cares about early retirees....

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