In the Arena

Bush’s Plan…the rest of the story.

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Ezra Klein has mea culpaed his previous posting about the Bush health care proposal. If he’s right, mea too. What Bush seems to be proposing is nothing more than a back door tax cut–surprise–for people who buy inexpensive health insurance and therefore a Health Savings Account empowerment act. (In other words, if you buy a $2000 HSA, you still get a $7500 deduction). There also seems to be a serious scam involved–stiffing public hospitals of the subsidies they receive to treat uninsured patients, on the ridiculous assumption that everybody will simply go out and buy health insurance the moment the proposal tumbles from the President’s mouth tonight. But I still like the idea that Bush has opened the door to raising taxes on those with gold-plated plans. Eliminating the deductability of health insurance, especially for the wealthy, is the most direct way to pay for a universal system.

By the way, one reader surmised that I’d never bought health insurance on my own. Sorry, but I did, during two extended and pretty painful periods–as a free-lancer in the early 1980s and as a New Yorker staff writer–yes, the venerable old mag doesn’t bestow health insurance on its writers–in the 1990s. It was ridiculously expensive, with limited coverage–group plans like Time-Warner’s have a lot more benefits–and a mind-numbing, ultra-skeptical bureaucracy. Which is a good part of the reason why I’ve been lobbying in print for an individual mandate, community rated plan like Senator Ron Wyden’s for about 15 years now.