"The Point" touted conservative health insurance proposal, ignored problems
Research ››› ››› GABE WILDAU
Sinclair vice president Mark Hyman devoted the January 11 edition of Sinclair Broadcast Group's "The Point" to a one-sided promotion of a health care plan from the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), a think tank founded by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey. The IPI proposal Hyman touted closely mirrors President Bush's own health care proposal, but Hyman did not mention that many health care experts fear this proposal will actually make the current health care crisis worse.
Hyman explained that the current employer-based health insurance system is broken and explained that IPI thinks that "removing the healthcare purchasing responsibility from the employers and giving taxpayers tax credits for managing their own healthcare purchases will allow more choice and more competition." He added: "And this would help control costs." The proposal Hyman touted seems to be the one presented in a 2002 IPI policy report.
Similarly, Bush has proposed "refundable tax credits of up to $1,000 for individuals and $3,000 for families to help low-income workers buy health insurance coverage."
But Edwin Park, senior health policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, warned in April 2004 that such a proposal would be particularly harmful to elderly and sick Americans, who would have trouble finding affordable health insurance in the individual market. Park explained:
In most states, insurers can vary the premiums that they charge for health insurance policies offered in the individual insurance market on the basis of age and medical history. Insurers also can simply refuse to cover people who have significant medical problems. The individual market thus is unfavorable for older and less healthy workers. To secure coverage in the individual market, many such workers would have to pay premiums that far exceed the amount of the tax credit [in Bush's plan].
Older and sicker individuals would encounter difficulty in obtaining adequate, affordable coverage in the individual market. The individual market is generally unregulated. A family containing older or sick members could find itself excluded from coverage in the individual market or be charged premiums that are unaffordable despite the proposed tax credit. Alternatively, such a family could be offered a plan that is affordable but does not provide coverage for a variety of significant medical conditions.
Brookings Institution senior fellow Henry J. Aaron cited the same concern -- as well as an additional concern about the high administrative costs in private health insurance -- in a November 25, 2002, op-ed in The Washington Post:
[T]he market for individual health insurance is burdened by administrative overhead. Because insurers charge the highest premiums to those who need care most, the young and the healthy have no trouble finding coverage at reasonable cost, while the old and the sick may find coverage only at exorbitant prices, if at all.
"The Point" is a two-minute conservative commentary by Hyman that airs nightly on the 62 television stations Sinclair owns or operates. SinclairAction.com, an effort led by Media Matters for America, has organized a campaign to protest Sinclair's continued misuse of public airwaves to air one-sided, politically charged programming without a counterpoint.