Most Americans already have health care insurance, but many middle-class
Americans are afraid of losing what they have. The fear is especially
profound when a person can work hard and steadily for years, only to
find him-or-herself suddenly out of a job and without the means to pay
for a costly illness.
There have been too many horror stories about people who responsibly buy
personal health plans, only to find out that the plans don't really
cover large medical bills. If a person gets a job that provides health
care benefits, his or her current health problems may not be covered
because they are pre-existing conditions.
Washington's catchphrase for the above situation has been, as the
fiscal-watchdog group the Concord Coalition wrote in its recent report
on health care reform, "doing nothing is not a responsible option."
The other half of the equation, however, is, as the report continued,
"It does not follow, however, that doing anything would improve the
situation." Alas, doing anything seems to be the one thing at which
Now, I've got issues with the bills passed in the House and Senate when
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid kept tossing in
benefits while promising to reduce the country's health care tab.
But my new fear is that during conference committee, lawmakers will
throw in even more goodies and then, to make everybody happy, reduce the
tax increases necessary to fund the plan. The closer they come to
President Obama's 2008 campaign rhetoric universal health care that
only rich people pay for the more red ink they will pass on to the
The House proposes a 5.4 percent tax on workers earning more than
$500,000 annually, or $1 million for couples. The Senate relies heavily
on what is called hide-the-tax excise tax on so-called Cadillac
health care plans. The Senate also would increase Medicare taxes on
families earning more than $250,000.
The problem with soaking the rich to pay for a health care plan? This is
the fastest-shrinking tax imaginable when the economy sours. If
California can serve any useful function in this debate, it should be as
a warning to the dangers of over-relying on taxes on the rich.
Besides, as the Concord Coalition noted, broadly based taxes "spread the
notion that all must contribute something for government benefits
imposing an important breaker against 'free lunch' spending giveaways."
Hence the coalition's support for the tax on so-called Cadillac health
While critics on the left complain that the Cadillac tax will squeeze
union workers and the middle-class, I have issues with taxing those with
health care benefits to pay for those who don't. Better to pass a
value-added tax, but at least this excise eventually would make everyone
pay for a universal benefit.
Concord Coalition Policy Director Josh Gordon believes, "Once people
start feeling the cost of their insurance, they start getting concerned
about premiums being too high." He added that if negotiators remove the
Senate excise-tax and cost-control measures, the Concord Coalition would
have to brand a final bill as "irresponsible legislation."
Note to anti-tax Republicans: If Washington passes a bill, someone has
to pay for it. The only question is who, when and how much.
Note to soak-the-richers: You can't say that universal health care is a
moral imperative, but only other people should pay for it.