A few weeks ago I was booed at a regional school budget meeting for pointing out that local property taxes in both real dollars and relative to property values have declined in my lifetime. This meeting took place the same day that activists and protesters gathered in Portland to make some noise for the Public Option--a guarantee that whatever health care solution our legislators craft health care will be available for all, regardless of ability to pay.
When I stood up to speak at the microphone that afternoon, I was all kinds of conflicted. As a reporter, one never, ever, ever insinuates oneself in the story. At this meeting I was liveblogging for this blog. Not strictly a reporter, I was attempting to capture it for others who did not attend. Somehow this gave me the proximity I needed to think it o.k. to stand and explain that those who were really interested in their wallets should be in Portland rallying for the Public Option as opposed to piling on with the sadly misguided Governor Baldacci in attempts to balance the state budget on school children's and teachers' backs.
At the time I only used my own experience of health insurance premiums rising in double-digit percentages all of my teaching career. Today a gracious commenter on TPMDC gave me the numbers I lacked that day.
Unknowncitizen tells his story:
My compulsory health insurance is funded through an employer contribution of SEVEN NINETY FIVE/hr, that's over $16K/year. Add medicare taxes, out of pocket medical costs and my family spends more than $20k. I get invoiced out at higher and higher rates because of the spiraling cost of health insurance (while my salary remains flat), all the while competing with and often losing work to companies who don't offer health insurance, but have a wide pool of desperate layed (sic) off workers to choose from.
We barely ever have a sniffle, yet are shaken down for almost $60 a day; more than food, more than housing, more than anything.
And these buffoons in the audience are yelling "what's wrong with profit?".
How do they get these stooges to repeat that crap? I along with a whole boatload of regular working stiffs are getting flat out scammed. There is simply no kinder description of it, it's thievery through deception, conspiracy and truth concealment. And my fellow Americans are sticking up for the health insurance profiteers.
Unknowncitizen's story is ubiquitous, yet at least he has health care. The real tragedy of course is that the continued success of this shakedown keeps the self-employed, underemployed and workers whose employers cannot afford to offer benefits out of the system entirely. Why should insurance companies change when they can get employers to hand over thousands of dollars a year covering essentially healthy families and, with further sleight of hand, get those who benefit from federal health care to go out and shill for them?