In the Arena

How to Pay for Health Care

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I just had a thought: With the Republicans pretty much out of the health care picture now–although one or two (the women from Maine) will be necessary to get the President’s proposals past the Senate–Barack Obamais free to reconsider how he’d pay for the expansion of coverage. That was an aspect of the bill that had become ridiculously tortured–the latest proposal would have taxed insurance companies for gold-plated plans (as opposed to the recipients of those plans), which would be sort of like taxing General Motors for building Cadillac Escalades rather than the ostentatious fools who buy them. 

My preference, as regular readers know, would be to remove the employer responsibility for providing health care and replace it with a single-payer system of government tax credits (any additional benefits sought by individuals or provided by employers would be paid for in taxable dollars) that could be used to buy insurance from heavily regulated private companies. But that’s several bridges too far in the current atmosphere. 

My second choice, a non-starter so far in the Congress, was the President’s elegant proposal to have tax deductions for the wealthy reimbursed at the same rate as they are for the middle class–28%. As Obama has said, if you’re a millionaire, there’s no reason why you should get a greater benefit from donating to your church than if you’re an assembly line worker. This idea was declared a non-starter months ago, but if you’re going to pass a bill without the anti-tax fetishists of the Republican Party, it should be back on the table. After all, Democrats are supposed to be in favor of tax progressivity, aren’t they? Well, aren’t they?