Reforming Health Care

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Steven Pearlstein's Jan. 24 Business column, "Bipartisan Cooperation on Health Care Is Dead on Arrival," missed the mark in criticizing the Democrats' negative reaction to President Bush's health-care and tax reform proposals.

Moreover, the column mischaracterized the coverage of postal employees.

A standard tax deduction for health insurance is not only inefficient tax policy, it would do little to promote universal coverage or contain costs. Bolstering the inefficient individual market for insurance and undermining the lower-cost employer-based system would increase costs and reduce coverage.

As for the mischaracterization, postal union members don't have excessively "rich" health insurance policies, as Mr. Pearlstein suggests.

The average annual premium for family plans used by postal employees this year is $11,676, little different from the Census Bureau's estimated national average of $11,481 for 2006. Postal employees pay nearly $2,000 of this average cost as well as significant deductibles and co-payments mandated by most plans in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan.

Only 19 of the 568 plans in FEHBP have premiums that exceed the "gold-plated" level of $15,000 per year, and fewer than 2 percent of postal enrollees choose such plans. Enrollees who choose the most comprehensive plans have the most severe medical conditions and pay dearly for the coverage because the employer's share is capped at $9,880 annually. The president's plan would tax the postal employees who pay the most for insurance. They are hardly the "aristocrats of the working class."

If we want universal insurance, it's time to stop scapegoating union workers and to phase out the inefficient private insurance system in favor of a single-payer system.

WILLIAM H. YOUNG

President

National Association of Letter Carriers


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