The most e-mailed story today at The New York Times looks at the trouble self-employed persons face finding health insurance. The article does not look at the myriad of federal and state laws that created this problem, but instead focuses on what options and private sector tools the self-employed can utilize to procure health insurance. The Times reports:
If there is one thing that separates the self-employed from those employed by others, it is their preoccupation with health insurance. I was reminded of this on Feb. 14, when I wrote a post on the Shifting Careers blog asking small-business owners and would-be entrepreneurs what they were doing about health insurance. Within hours, scores of people posted comments about their own experiences and, if they had managed to find good resources, shared those. I have been reading e-mail messages and trying to make sense of the subject ever since. In short, it is not pretty out there.
This is not news to heritage Foundation analysts who have long called for Congress to abandon the World War II era preference for health insurance delivery through employers. Equally harmful consumers, as the Times later notes in the article, is the state-by-state patchwork of regulations and mandates that make affordable health plans almost impossible to find in some states. There are three changes Congress could make to help ease the health insurance burden on our nation’s entrepreneurs:
- Congress should change federal tax law to provide direct tax relief to individuals and families for the purchase of health insurance coverage. This would enable them to own their coverage and take it with them from job to job. Portability of coverage is the chief remedy for the instability of the existing health insurance markets.
- Until Congress makes these changes, state policymakers should redesign state health insurance markets to promote personal ownership of health plans, enabling individuals and families to keep coverage regardless of employment changes.
- State and federal policymakers should reform public health programs, notably Medicaid and SCHIP, guaranteeing enrollees a reliable, predictable funding stream for health care while designing assistance so that they can use it to buy private coverage, thus facilitating a seamless transition into private coverage. The right welfare policy would enable individuals to move off welfare and into the private economy.