Hello, My Name Is Christine and I Have a Health Savings Account
Today, the Springfield News-Leader ran my recent editorial in which I argue that Attorney General Chris Koster should join the multistate lawsuit challenging the federal takeover of health care. I have enjoyed reading the comments there, because many are quite colorful. I would like to address the following comment specifically, because it depends on assumptions that are false:
I hope the SNL editors research and footnote the types of benefits offered to the Show-Me Institute’s employees, if any, and that Harbin discloses her participation, if any, in them. My guess is that she would refuse to disclose which benefits she receives, much like the GOP Congress refused to do this week.
The commenter guessed incorrectly. Even though I don’t consider it to be relevant to my argument, nor do I consider it to be the responsibility of the Springfield News-Leader to investigate it before running an editorial, I’m happy to clarify the health care benefits that I enjoy. This is no secret — it’s something that I mentioned yesterday when I was talking about health care policy on the Mike Ferguson show on the Eagle 93.9 FM in Columbia. It’s a characteristic of my generation — we tend to be very willing to disclose details of our finances.
I have a health savings account (HSA) and a health insurance policy with a $5,000 deductible. My monthly premium, which I pay out of pocket, is around $100, which is manageable. I work at the Show-Me Institute because I am committed to the ideas of liberty and individual responsibility — certainly not because I receive a lucrative benefits package, because I don’t. If I simply wanted a fat paycheck, I would get a job in the private sector or become a school superintendent.
Insurance policies are not one-size-fits-all, particularly in health care. Although high deductible insurance plans and HSAs work very well for healthy 20-somethings like John Payne and me, I’ll readily admit that it is not something that works best for everybody. However, a plan that works best for everybody doesn’t exist. A so-called Cadillac insurance plan with a low deductible, for instance, would be a poor fit for me at this time in my life. This is precisely why health care should remain in the free market — it preserves consumer choice and ensures that individuals can select the policies that fit their needs. We can see that when the government increases the number of mandates, the cost of coverage rises.
Show-Me Institute staff and scholars have highlighted the advantages of HSAs previously. As one particular benefit, my policy is portable (i.e., it’s not tied to my employer). Therefore, if I were to leave the Show-Me Institute, my health care coverage would be unaffected. From my perspective as a young person, an additional benefit of an HSA is that it serves as a tax-sheltered savings account. Unlike flexible savings accounts, which expire every Dec. 31, the money that I put into my HSA rolls over each year. Furthermore, if I don’t spend the money in my account by age 65, I can withdraw it without penalty like I would with a traditional IRA.
The bottom line is that it is important to preserve choice in health care. Overall welfare would decrease if families and individuals weren’t free to choose the policies that best fit their particular lifestyles and budget constraints.