Statement by Grace-Marie Turner
President, Galen Institute
It sounds promising that the number of uninsured decreased last year to 45.7 million, according to the latest Census Bureau report. Unfortunately, that’s not the whole story.
Of the 3.6 million who gained health insurance, nearly 3 million of them got coverage through a government program – taking America in the wrong direction. Unless we reverse this slide and modernize private insurance, more people will rely on their fellow taxpayers for coverage.
Our system of supporting the purchase of private health insurance is woefully regressive and out of date. We provide generous tax subsidies to those with job-based health insurance – worth an estimated $250 billion a year – and little or nothing to those who don’t get coverage at work. The result: they and their families often go without.
If things stay as they are, the number of uninsured will increase, not decrease, in the future. We must make three major changes to bring our health sector into a mobile 21st-century economy:
- Fairness: We must treat people fairly so all get the same tax break – whether they get their health insurance at work, through other groups, or on their own. Providing refundable tax credits would be much fairer than the current system of invisible tax benefits, which go disproportionately to higher-wage workers with expensive coverage.
- Portability: The Labor Department says four in 10 workers change jobs every year. Clearly, tying health insurance to the workplace is not working for tens of millions of Americans. Health insurance needs to be portable so people can own and control their health insurance as they move from job to job. People should not hesitate to change jobs for fear of losing or changing insurance.
- Choice: We also must give people more options to purchase health insurance that meets their needs. This means a more competitive marketplace with more affordable policies, not restricted to the highly regulated and overly mandated policies that are the only options in many states.
Unless we modernize our health sector, we will see Census reports showing that more and more people are losing health insurance. That is not a sustainable path, and change is essential.
To schedule an interview with Grace-Marie Turner, call Amy Menefee at 703-299-9550 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.