The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention. President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd. Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.
Giving up is not “reform.” County Executive Ed Mangano’s proposal to transfer property assessment from the county to the towns might possibly speed up assessment decisions by replacing one large and overwhelmed bureaucracy with several somewhat smaller ones. It will likely recreate problems that were major motivations in creating our highly centralized county government 75 years ago.
The 1938 county charter merged the town Boards of Assessors and the County Board of Equalization, ending three decades of complaints, lawsuits and hard feelings about the lack of specific, uniform levels of property assessments between the towns. In a tax system screaming out for simplification, clarification and a sense of certainty, spinning off assessments to the towns will reintroduce “equalization” as an annual issue. Tens of thousands of residents are still trying to figure out why their assessment went down but their tax bill still went up. The division of taxes heading up the tax food chain in an equitable manner is the most complex subject in local government, and it’s all going to make people very sad, particularly in villages and school districts that are split between townships.
Manhattan District Attorney (D.A.) Robert Morgenthau was facing a spirited Democratic primary challenge from a former judge in 2005, but his opponent had trouble finding anything substantively negative to say about Morgenthau.
The reason I know this: a city-based tabloid newspaper reporter called me weeks before the election, asking whether it was legal to have a Manhattan driver’s license while at the same time registering and insuring a car in Dutchess County, where auto insurance premiums are much lower. The answer: yes, so long as the insured vehicle is primarily garaged in Dutchess County. I was the director of public affairs for the New York State Insurance Department at the time and knew immediately the question pertained to Morgenthau because he met those criteria.
Written by Michael A. Miller, Millercolumn@optimum.net Friday, 10 May 2013 00:00
If you are in the market for health insurance coverage in Nassau County and are merely an individual, not part of a business or organization that helps pay for your policy, you don’t have a lot of attractive options. The largest health insurance company in this state, covering more than 5.5 million New Yorkers, offers two comprehensive insurance options. They will cost, depending on how much choice you want in what care providers you see, between $1,533.76 and $1,916.32 per month.
We haven’t added in your spouse or your kids, dental or vision, or the many copayments. You will have to wait nine to 11 months to be covered for pre-existing conditions, so if you have a chronic illness and some prescriptions, you may well have to pay tens of thousands of dollars before your insurance policy kicks in.
Group policies typically cost half these amounts, or a little less (Long Island school districts average about $747 a month for individual coverage, and that’s roughly what most of our local governments pay). School district health insurance premiums rose by a statewide average of 7.4 percent for this school year, and are expected to rise about the same amount for 2013-2014. As a group, Long Island school districts are budgeting for 10.4 percent premium increases.
Health insurance costs some of us more than rent or property taxes. For some, health insurance is a tax on life.
Politicians and the media decided for us that all discussion regarding health care revolves around this: Are you “for” the Affordable Care Act or “against” it?
Let’s be clear. There are very good things about that law. For example, the ACA’s closing of the prescription “donut hole” in Medicare Part D has already saved about 6.1 million elderly and disabled Americans some $5.7 billion on drugs so far. But while the federal reforms will certainly help some people, they aren’t going to help enough.
Only 45 percent of American adults were covered by employer-sponsored insurance in 2012, continuing a five-year decline. The biggest losses were among people earning less than $90,000. Workers age 45 and older make up a disproportionate share of the long-term unemployed, who are losing insurance at the time they’ll be starting to need it. In 2011, just over 17 percent of working-age Americans were without coverage for a year or more.
Over the past decade, the cost of medical insurance has gone up two times more than the cost of actual medical care, and three times more than wage growth. Between 2003 and 2011, the five largest for-profit health insurance companies spent $67 billion to buy back their own stock. In 2011, three companies alone paid over $1 billion in dividends to investors. Many other countries have private health insurers, but only in the U.S. are those businesses designed to make a profit off certain basic core health services.
There is inefficiency throughout the system. The $2.8 trillion health care industry has added more jobs than any other industry in America since 2000. Subtract health care from the employment statistics and there would be fewer jobs in the American economy than in 2000. But we’re not adding health care providers; we have five clerks and other administrative support staff for every doctor, mostly filling out insurance paperwork. Long Island hospital systems are buying independent providers by the hundreds, but every attempt to consolidate and standardize only seems to increase paperwork, frustrating everyone.
Millions of Americans are realizing they will likely never be able to retire, that the road ahead is going to be harder for them — maybe impossible.
We cannot sustain this health care system and a thriving, dynamic middle class at the same time.