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( – promoted by Clark)

Grocery store workers in St. Louis voted overwhelmingly this week to accept new contracts with Schnucks, Shop n Save and Dierbergs.  While members of the United Food and Commercial Workers will receive a moderate pay raise and an expansion of some benefits, they do so by accepting to share the cost of their health insurance premiums. The new contract states that workers’ share of premiums will range from $4.00 weekly for employee only coverage to $12.00 weekly for family coverage.  The overall attitude among workers is that considering the cost of health care, this looks like a bargain.

More below the flip. – Clark

The UAW is also facing an employer-initiated proposal to overhaul the health insurance benefit currently provided to employees as part of their contract.  The proposal being offered by GM, Ford and Chrysler asks that the Union be willing to discuss the creation and administration of a health care trust which would provide benefits for active and retired workers. Creation of the trust would take $100 billion in health care liabilities off the automakers’ books. The carmakers would then contribute a large amount, in the tens of millions to create the trust.  If the union members should reject this offer, they risk wage and benefit cuts and loss of other employee perks. Strikes to protest these cuts would likely force at least one of the big three into bankruptcy. History on this plan has not proved  favorable.

The US is recognized as offering the gold standard in health care.  It is also recognized as the most expensive health care system in the world.  The union concessions noted above are but a drop in the barrel insofar as solutions to the high cost of care.  But wait! Here come the lending giants with zero interest financing.  Medical financing has become one of the fastest growing areas of consumer credit.  Of course not everyone is eligible for the zero interest option.  Only for the creditworthy, it will offer no help to the 47 million uninsured in difficult financial circumstances.  Even if you are creditworthy and get the zero interest option, if you should default, you will be subject to a 20% or more interest rate – such as the default penalty on a credit card.  If you don’t qualify for the zero interest option and need a longer-term loan, it can be had for an interest rate of only 12%.  Look for an increase in personal bankruptcies as a result of this fabulous solution to the health care conundrum.  And forgetful me, I almost forgot to mention, the credit card industry will now demand a seat at the table when health care reform is discussed.

Thank goodness that politicos on the presidential loading ramp have their very own solution for the funding hodgepodge that controls the gate of gold standard health care.  Some are serious, some are cutsey and most of them not worth mentioning. The Edwards plan comes closer than any other proposal to meet the health care needs of this country causing  the PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program) to recently challenge Senator Edwards to  “eliminate the middleman, make our businesses more competitive globally, so that this country could afford health care for everyone.” Kudos goes to Gov. Mike Huckabee for the best non-answer.  It is simple, give every citizen the same insurance that legislators have or give every legislator the same insurance that everyone else has, he said with a sly grin, His interviewer struggled, but failed to come up with, a follow up question.

In the end the health care problem could reform itself. Right now 64% of our health care system is financed by public money, which includes federal and state taxes, property taxes and tax subsidies. With these monies, we pay for Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, and insurance coverage for public employees (including teachers), elected officials, military personnel, etc.  Hefty tax subsidies are also paid to employers to help pay for their employees health insurance.  About 17% of care is financed by all of us via out of pocket payments, such as co pay, deductibles, people paying out of pocket for health insurance or health care, etc.  Only about 19% of health care is attributable to employer health insurance.  If employers contract themselves out of health insurance provision, maybe we will be able to see beyond the fog and realize there is no earthly reason for insurance industry interference.  We might not want to fork over tax money, only to have the Feds pay insurance 30% just to let us know we will not be covered. We might just go ahead and excuse big insurance, big pharma, big politics and now big banking, from the health care table. But health care is projected to be a $4 trillion industry by 2015 so, don’t expect them to go quietly into the night.