Wednesday, January 24, 2007


President Bush's Health Care Plan

Before writing this post I looked at Daily Kos to see whether someone had written a critique of the President's plan for helping the health uninsured. It may be there, hidden in the hundreds of comments, but most of the space on DK this morning dealt with the War in Iraq. So, at the risk of writing something that someone has written elsewhere and better, let me begin my rant.

Mr. Bush proposes jiggering with the tax code to reduce the income tax on individuals who do not have employment-sponsored heath insurance and increasing the tax on those who do have it. The subsidy that an employer provides toward health insurance for an employee would be counted as part of taxable income.

My opinion: a typical response of a rich, country-club Republican to a serious problem shared by people much farther down the economic ladder. Rich country-club Republicans have always obsessed about their taxes. They vote for other rich country-club Republicans who promise, if elected, to let them keep more of their money. Fiddling with the tax code isn't going to make it easier for a poor man or woman to afford health insurance. They're not poor because of their taxes. Of course, reducing their tax burden even a little can be justified as an act of mercy. (I haven't taken the time yet to figure how much in taxes a person earning $30,000 a year would save.) The revenue loss to the Treasury is to be made up by taxing the health insurance benefit that workers get from their employers. That can also be justified, sort of, by claiming that the benefit is a form of "income" to the worker and should be taxed.

Even if the President's assumptions are correct, his tax change would allow only a trivial fraction of the uninsured to have enough extra income to buy some kind of health insurance policy, one with huge deductables and co-payments. Essentially his proposal is a non-solution to the problem of the forty million or so uninsured Americans.

No Republican, not even a progressive one like Schwarzenegger or Romney, is willing to state that good health care should be the right of every American. If we believe in that right, as I do, we must change our system of health care so that every American, every resident even, no matter how poor, can obtain necessary and adequate health and medical care regardless of ability to pay. Mr. Bush's tax fiddling does not advance us one inch toward that goal.
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