The Denver Post on HSAs and Single-Payer

Guess which one gets a better review?

As the Colorado House of Representative took us further down the road to socialized health care earlier this week, Douglas County School are considering moving to a Health Savings Account plan for their employees. Needless to say, the Denver Post finds this objectionable:

Douglas County School District soon may join a growing number of employers pushing workers to manage their own medical spending with health savings accounts, eliminating copays for drugs and doctor visits.

The transition is frightening for many who see it as a reinvention of health insurance as they've always known it.

...

The plan would work nicely for about 85 percent of employees, who are predicted not to spend more than the $1,000 put into their accounts by the district.

But for the other 15 percent, the change could mean a few extra thousand dollars a year spent on health care.

By the twenty-second paragraph, we find out that the system would actually include all that preventative care that single-payer advocates talk about:

A major component of the new health plan, up for a teachers-union vote at the end of the month, is a push to get employees to eat healthier and exercise more.

The plan comes with free preventive care, meaning no charge for mammograms, well-baby checkups and vaccines. Also, the district wants to reward employees for getting healthier - holding contests akin to "The Biggest Loser" reality TV show.

In-between is a real-life, specific case of financial hardship that the plan might cause.

And then, almost at the end of the article, comes what could well be the most appealing aspect of the plan for middle-class employees:

Health savings accounts are the fastest-growing trend in health care, said Andrew Sykes, chairman of Health at Work, a Chicago company hired by Douglas County to coordinate the possible conversion. The accounts have a triple tax benefit - the money goes in pre-tax, grows without tax and can be taken out without tax penalty to spend on health care.

In fact, the money can eventually be rolled over into a regular IRA, without the health-care-spending stipulation. And the tax implications for that real-life case aren't even discussed.

Compare this with the promise-heavy description of single-payer earlier this week:

During the extended debate on the bill, Democrats argued passionately for a government-backed system covering all Coloradans to replace a current system they said is inefficient and full of holes.

"I think it is our responsibility that every single Coloradan, regardless of their wealth or position in society, get the health care they need," said Rep. Daniel Kagan, D-Cherry Hills Village. "It is our obligation."

"This system we have right now," said Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, "is completely and fundamentally broken, and there's no amount of patching it up that we can do to provide universal coverage."

Democrats said a single-payer system would save money overall by streamlining the health-care machinery and taking advantage of economies of scale.

Eventually, we get to the Republican response, but the political trumps are saved for the last paragraph:

Last month, the head of the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing told lawmakers that Ritter is against the bill, noting that Ritter's health-care commission studied a single-payer system and rejected the idea.

There are no numbers given, no estimates of what such a system will cost or what care compromises will inevitably have to be made, no examples of people who would lose treatment because it wasn't deemed cost-effective by the state, only vague Republican accusations of rationing and expense.

In the meantime, a system that the Post admits will work for 85% of employees, that is intended to control costs by having individual rather than bureaucracies make choices, that provides a serious tax shelter for the young and healthy - exactly when we want people to be putting away money for retirement, is described as scary.

Apparently, for the Denver Post, free stuff is an easier sell that freedom.