Focus Point - Reforming Uninsurance

Commentary by Pete du Pont

I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. There's a good chance the number of uninsured is going to grow because of layoffs and employers who are hard-pressed to continue offering medical insurance.

The newly unemployed are in for an awful case of sticker shock: employer-sponsored coverage averages more than $7,000 per family and $2,600 per individual. Premiums are rising faster than any time in the last 10 years. And while covered workers on the job are exempt from taxes, the unemployed get no medical insurance tax break.

The situation isn't irreparable, but congress must find the time and the fortitude to fix it. First, it can provide refundable tax credits for medical insurance to all unemployed people, not just the low-income people who figure in current proposals.

Next, congress should extend medical savings accounts to everybody. They've been available since 1997, but only to the self-employed or to employers with 50 or fewer workers. These two moves, overnight, can go a long way toward solving the uninsured problem the right way.

Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, wartime pork.