Give Liberty a Chance!

God has given to men all that is necessary for them to accomplish their destinies…

And now that the legislators and do-gooders have so futilely inflicted so many systems upon society, may they finally end where they should have begun: May they reject all systems, and try liberty; for liberty is an acknowledgement of faith in God and His works.

- Frederic Bastiat, The Law, 1850

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ervin Introduces Comprehensive Health Care Initiative

Jefferson City – It should be easier for many of the estimated 700,000 uninsured Missourians to afford health insurance and have a better idea of what health care goods and services cost under legislation sponsored by Rep. Doug Ervin (R-Holt).

“Building upon our tax equity and portability successes from last year, we are now in a position to continue making market-based reforms to improve access to affordable coverage for those who are unable to be medically underwritten and to low-income individuals. It is also time that Missourians be given the information necessary to be informed consumers and not just participants in their health care. We have a right to know the cost and quality of health care before those services are provided,” said Rep. Ervin. “This legislation takes steps to change things, to move the state in the right direction, to redirect our state’s health care policies to meet the needs of its citizens instead of the needs of employers, government, insurers, and providers.”

Ervin believes that people have the right to know what health care costs and have some idea of the quality of that care before the care is provided. “All of us, at one time or another has driven across town to save a penny or two per gallon of gas or spent time clipping coupons, yet we don’t think twice about the price of health care,” Ervin said. “As consumers of health care we act irrationally, especially when it is paid for by a third party. This is largely due to the lack of price and quality information available to consumers.”

Ervin’s plan ensures that people have the right to request an estimate of the costs of their care in non-emergency situations before that care is provided. “It is not that we don’t care about what something costs or how good our doctor is, but simply that we have never been given the opportunity to find out. Let’s face it, we have a health care system that is price blind and quality silent, patients demand and deserve better than that.”

The Missouri Health Insurance Pool
Under Rep. Ervin’s plan, the medically uninsurable will be provided affordable health insurance through the high risk pool known as the Missouri Health Insurance Pool (MHIP). The MHIP serves individuals who have medical conditions that insurers won’t provide coverage to in the individual health insurance market. These individuals typically do not qualify for public assistance and do not have an employer health insurance plan available to them. It is estimated that one to two percent of Missouri’s population is considered medically uninsurable.

Currently, individuals qualifying for the high risk pool pay 150% of the standard market rate for coverage. Ervin’s bill would lower that rate to the standard market rate for lower income enrollees and cap the rate at 125% of the standard market rate for higher income enrollees. The plan also authorizes the MHIP to create a low-income premium subsidy program to assist low-income enrollees.

Small businesses find the cost of providing employees with employer-sponsored health insurance to be excessively prohibitive, especially when an employee or dependent has a significant health problem. Ervin’s bill would create a pilot program to allow insurers to transfer the high risks from the small group to the MHIP through a risk transfer product with the intent to stabilize rates for the small group. It is estimated that half of Missouri’s uninsured population work for small businesses.

Insure Missouri
Another provision in Ervin’s plan would establish the Insure Missouri program. This program will provide premium assistance to low-income Missourians allowing them to purchase individual health insurance policies. The program is intended to assist at least 71,000 low-income, working adults.

Each Insure Missouri policy holder will be required to make a monthly contribution, based upon income, to a separate account to pay for deductibles and co-pays. Failure to make the monthly contribution will cause the individual to be removed from the program.

“The Insure Missouri plan allows those qualified individuals to purchase an individual health insurance policy while promoting personal responsibility and ownership of their health, leveraging private market innovations, focusing on prevention and wellness, and using existing revenues to pay for the plan eliminating the need to raise taxes,” explained Ervin. “This plan helps eliminate the hidden tax that each of us pay due to uncompensated care from the uninsured and uninsurable populations.”

Ervin recently introduced HB2394 relating to price and quality transparency in health care and HB2413 relating to access and affordability of health coverage through the MHIP and Insure Missouri program.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Feel Good Economics

Apparently, Congress is unaware of the economy that you and I live in. Just yesterday (March 13, 2008) Congress passed a non-binding budget resolution that ends the tax cuts from earlier this decade to pay for questionable pork barrel projects (which poses another question: why can’t Congress do anything for the people of this land that IS binding?).

Since when do tax increases help a struggling economy? How can Congress talk about economic “stimulus” packages out of one side of their mouth and job killing tax increases out of the other? Why does Congress want us to believe that a one-time tax rebate is good for us, but a permanent tax cut it is not? Is Congress more concerned with central planning of the economy, than the prosperity of its citizens?

Missouri’s constitution does not allow for deficit spending and requires the General Assembly to pass a balanced budget each and every year for the protection of taxpayers. Unfortunately, we have no such protection from Congress.

Politicians in Washington have opted for a politically expedient “stimulus” package that will do little, if anything, to stimulate the economy, but may be enough to stimulate their re-election campaigns. When the rebate becomes available, take it – it may be the only thing you’ll get from Congress, unless you have a personal “earmark”.

What is a state to do?

The General Assembly is already working on legislation to curb illegal immigration – a job that belongs to the federal government. The General Assembly is working to provide better access and affordability in our health care markets, but the federal government has put up barriers that stifle innovation and our ability to do so. The General Assembly is working to improve public education, but again the federal No Child Left Behind Act has too many strings attached.

Once again, what is a state to do? How can Missouri compete on the national and global playing field when Washington fails?

To add insult to injury, an old adage tells us that high tax rates don’t redistribute income as much as they redistribute people. In the next census, it is expected that Missouri will lose a congressional seat. These seats are apportioned by population and this would indicate that Missouri is not growing as fast as other states. This loss of a congressional seat will reduce Missouri’s representation and ability to influence Washington.

Where do people go? Over 20,000 people a day are relocating from one state to another. Americans are leaving the Northeast and the Midwest in favor of Southern and Western states. While a number of factors come into play like climate, quality of life, and housing prices to name a few, it is also true that taxes are a motivating factor.

Of the 12 top states netting new residents, eight of them do not have a state income tax. Those on the Left would tell us that people are willing to pay more taxes to get better government services, but the migration patterns strongly suggest otherwise. Interestingly, the people who tend to be the most mobile tend to be the most educated and motivated, or to put it bluntly, are taxpayers – tax them too much and they may not be here in the future to tax at all.

Missouri should take steps to reverse this trend by reducing our state income tax burden. One proposal (
HB1340) would phase in the full deductibility of our federal income tax liability from our state income taxes. There is also a bill (HB2112) which requires the state to develop a way to replace the state income tax with a state sales tax. Another proposal, to be introduced by the end of the month, will reduce the top state income tax by up to 15% providing real tax relief for Missourians, especially the middle class.

These proposals are intended to allow people keep more of their own money, to allow them to make decisions for themselves and their families, to give individuals more liberty in their consumption, savings, and debt retirement.

By contrast, House Democrats have introduced a bill (
HB2131) this year that will deny citizens more liberty in their consumption, savings, and debt retirement. This bill increases income taxes by up to 50% for middle class families in a time when families need to keep more of their hard-earned income, not less. Apparently, some believe government knows how best to spend your money than you do.

If we continue to ignore the long-term benefits of lower taxes and instead, embrace the “feel good economics” of Washington where Americans are baited into a $600 tax rebate check while imposing a tax increase roughly twice that size, not only will Missouri continue lose representation in Washington, but the individual liberty of each Missourian will be eroded. Let’s be thankful, as Will Rogers observed that we are not getting all of the government we are paying for.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Identity Theft

On Wednesday, the Missouri House passed HB1384, giving Missourians a new weapon to help fight identity theft. We don’t have to spend much time watching television or listening to the radio to see or hear one of the many commercials offering free credit reports or credit card security services designed to protect us from the threat of identity theft. While the ads are often humorous and the jingles are usually catchy, they shed light on a serious problem that is no laughing matter to the millions of Americans victimized by identity thieves each year.

Innocent Missourians have been the victims of crimes ranging from someone using an existing credit card account to purchase goods to an individual opening multiple accounts using stolen personal information to someone using a stolen identity to secure a business or home loan. The methods for perpetrating identity theft are many and that is why it is important that Missourians are provided with adequate protection from these devastating and very personal crimes.

Identity thieves work hard to steal information about us from online transactions, looking over one’s shoulder at an ATM, to going through our trash. Our trash is a potential treasure trove information if credit card offers and various other mailings with personal information are not shredded before being discarded. It’s this information that can be used to register new credit cards and endanger the financial stability of innocent, unsuspecting Missourians. The avenues of identity theft are many and that is why identity theft is so hard to combat.

In 2004, the legislature passed legislation to increase the penalties for those who steal our personal information (HB916). That bill put some real teeth into our law to send the message that Missouri views identity theft as a serious crime and criminals will not get away with a simple slap on the wrist. On a federal level, President Bush created the first ever Identity Theft Task Force to protect American families from identity theft and to crack down on criminals who traffic in stolen identities. The combination of state and federal efforts has made it more difficult to engage in this illicit behavior.

This year the House is taking additional steps with another piece of legislation that makes a very simple change that could mean a big difference for anyone who is victimized by identity thieves. This bill clarifies that identity theft victims have the right to contact local law enforcement to have an incident report prepared and filed. While many police departments already do this, believe or not, there are some that are not willing to take identity theft reports. This is especially important when a victim attempts to have charges removed from a credit card that were run up by an identity thief, because the victim needs a police report to substantiate the fact that they were the victim of a crime. This is a simple, commonsense change that will assist Missourians victimized by identity theft to straighten out the financial mess that can result from these types of crimes.

Identity theft is a serious crime and all of us are at risk of becoming the kind of cautionary tale we see in those catchy commercials. By being smart with the way we do business and by enacting laws that give Missourians adequate protection, we can thwart the efforts of these criminals who seek to impersonate us.