The two most important things we will ever pay for in this world are K-12 education and health care. That said, Americans are being fear-mongered by politicians over everything from losing healthcare to the constant lie that public schools are failing.

Central to this threat is the concept of a “savings account.” Like everything else in the “reform” lexicon the political intent is wholly different from what it seems. Most people don’t equate “saving money” to vouchers, privatization and forcing citizens to incur extraordinary debt for what seems like a basic human right.

This is “Gaslighting” in its purest form. Corporations, politicians and billionaire ideologues are manipulating the 99% with psychological spin to make us question everything we know to be true.

We’ve spent decades happily sharing the cost of insurance with employers with a reasonable expectation that the cost of accidents and illnesses would be covered without penalty. That confidence has been eroded by five to ten thousand dollar annual deductibles that leave folks paying out of pocket for everything but the most catastrophic health crisis. This high stakes “access” to coverage has left millions of Americans completely priced out of affordable health care. There’s a will, but no way.

Similarly, taxpayers across the nation invest at least $800 billion dollars per year to fund free public education at the state level. School “reformers” such as U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, use aggressive rhetoric in an attempt to wear down the affection people have for their teachers and public schools. The goal is to convince parents to use vouchers to “Choice” into private, mostly religious schools. What is not made clear is that the voucher, which is paid for with public tax dollars, will always be worth a fixed amount. Private schools are free to set tuition as high as possible, leaving parents struggling, even going into debt to pay the difference.

Instead of serving the greater good of society, both Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Education Savings Accounts (ESA) shift the cost of services such as Medicare, Medicaid & free high-quality public education onto the backs of individual citizens. And who benefits? The 1% who can afford to pay millions out of pocket for their healthcare, private schools and college.

Here’s what “Choice”/Education Savings Accounts mean: 

  • Accepting a “Choice” voucher means giving up your child’s right to a “Free and Appropriate Public Education” (FAPE)
  • Your voucher will not pay for a full year of private/religious school tuition
  • You must use your child’s “Choice” voucher/ESA to pay for private schools and/or vendors
  • You will pay the cost difference between the value of the voucher and private/religious school tuition which could be thousands of dollars
  • Your state will assign a fixed dollar value to your voucher and is not obligated to provide a mechanism for increasing dollar amounts or accommodating a short-fall
  • Free market principles as applied to “Choice”/ESAs means vouchers will be funded at the cheapest rate possible, then it’s up to consumers/parents and providers/private schools to battle over actual costs. As in health care, consumers/parents will be on the hook for extraordinary costs.
  • If you spend your entire voucher during the first half of the school year, it’s “Oh, well. You made your “Choice.”
  • Private/religious schools are free to discriminate against you or your child
  • Private/religious schools are not required to hire credentialed staff or adhere to any particular curriculum
  • Private/religious schools may ask your child to leave at any time for no reason
  • Private/religious schools are under no obligation to ensure that your child graduates ready to attend college or study a trade

Health Savings Accounts are central to the effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. As in the ESA/”Choice”vouchers, the political intent is to pass nearly every expense onto taxpayers. Instead of “choice,” today’s Healthcare HSA scheme revolves around the notion of “access” to care.

Here’s what “Accessible”care/ Health Savings Accounts mean for regular folks: 

  • An HSA is a tax-free way for you to save up money to pay for your own medical bills
  • The “success” of the HSA scheme depends solely on your ability to deposit large sums per family member into the account every year. Those in the top 5% wealth category will see this as a way to shelter funds tax free while folks living paycheck to paycheck will find the task of funding their HSA insurmountable
  • Under the HSA scheme there is “access” to healthcare for anyone who has the ability pay for premiums and generously fund their account. Those who cannot afford to buy “access” are in the harshest “free market” sense, “out of luck,” and “should have worked harder/planned better” like the wealthiest 5%.
  • Current Medicare and Medicaid benefits will cease to exist
  • Out of pocket expenses will include chemotherapy, surgeries, hospitalization, doctor visits, urgent care, ER visits, and prescription drugs
  • Buying insurance does not inoculate you from having to put money into your HSA to pay for an enormous deductible, prescriptions and other expensive health services not covered by the policy
  • HSAs mean you must put any extra funds into your account making it impossible to save for other important things like college tuition or retirement

For regular people, these HSA and ESA savings accounts are a path to disaster. We are quickly receding into the brutal past where wealth alone determined access to high quality healthcare and education.

Expecting regular folks who support families on less than $15/hour to be able to “save” enough to fund their own Health Care Savings Account or pay for a $10,000 difference between their Education Savings Account/”voucher” and the actual cost of a private school is intentional cruelty on the part of our political leaders. In education it will mean accelerated re-segregation along poverty lines and in health care it will visit unfair suffering on anyone from the poor to middle class who cannot afford to pay.

Consider the challenges faced by the citizens of Florida, a state with nationally relevant demographics, as reported in the Tampa Bay Times: 

Low-wage jobs dominate Florida’s economy with 67 percent of all jobs in the state paying less than $20 per hour. Three-quarters of these jobs pay less than $15 per hour.

More than 4 of every 10 households in Florida — 3.3 million of the state’s 7.5 million households — are struggling to make ends meet. That 44 percent includes not only the 14.5 percent of households that earn less than the federal poverty level but another 29.5 percent of Florida households that are part of the working poor. These are folks ranging from fast food workers, the bulk of tourism industry employees, home health care workers and even certain teachers who find their modest paychecks still make it tough to meet basic needs.

There is an undeniable parallel between Education Savings Accounts/”Choice” vouchers and “Accessible” Care/ Health Savings Accounts.  In both cases citizens invest for years funding public education with their property taxes and pay high insurance rates with extraordinary deductibles during their youth to ensure quality healthcare later in life.

In both healthcare and education, politicians – not citizens – are orchestrating the transfer of hundreds of billions in public funds to private for-profit entities.  And in both cases, regular working families, the backbone of this nation, will be asked to do the impossible by privileged politicians who truly couldn’t care less.