In his State of the Union address President Bush announced the centerpiece of his efforts to reform health care would be tax breaks for people to pay for their own health care, including Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), in which people replace traditional insurance coverage with their own savings.

HSA-based health care would be a disaster for working families, a giant step backward that would shift costs away from employers to employees and their families and force many people to go without needed care.

Here are a few things you should know about HSAs:

• The idea behind Health Savings Accounts is that Americans have too much insurance. You read that right. Those who came up with the idea believe Americans are over-insured, something that very few working families would likely agree with.

• Despite the rhetoric, HSAs will do nothing to control skyrocketing health care costs or reduce the number of uninsured. In fact, they will just make matters worse for those who have health coverage.

• By shifting the costs to workers, HSAs provide cover to employers to reduce or even eliminate health benefits. It will undermine employer-based health plans, where two-thirds of Americans get their coverage.

• HSAs will drive the wealthy and healthy away from health care insurance, driving up the costs for those who need insurance the most. Seniors and those who need health care coverage will see their premiums skyrocket.

• HSAs are brought to you by the same people who brought you the Medicare prescription drug disaster, and it will have the same consequences. It’s a boon to the profit-driven drug companies and insurance industry. It’s complicated, fragmented and costly.

At a time when we are working hard on the state and federal level to give more working families the coverage they need, President Bush’s commitment to an idea that would reduce coverage is baffling.

Like his proposal to privatize Social Security, giving more tax breaks for HSAs will go nowhere if Congress sees massive public opposition to Bush’s bad ideas. (And like Social Security privatization, the political push is being bankrolled by Big Business, including the banking and insurance industries.)

That’s why we need you to take action immediately. Write your U.S. representative and senators and tell them you oppose Bush’s plan for Health Savings Accounts.

— Reprinted from Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO