In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 20, 2005 / 13 Sivan, 5765

De-link health care from employment

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Prices are advertised everywhere. From newspapers to billboards to websites, we are forever being told how much things cost. Want to buy contact lenses? A cruise to Alaska? A pedicure? The price of almost any product or service is readily available, and vendors vie for business by keeping their prices competitive.

But not when it comes to health care.

How much does your local hospital charge to deliver a baby? Which blood pressure drugs are the most affordable? What is the going rate for a pediatric checkup?

Most of us couldn't begin to answer such questions. Hospitals and physicians rarely advertise their rates because patients rarely care to learn them. For the majority of Americans under age 65, medical bills are something insurance companies take care of. Few patients have any incentive to focus on price, so few health care providers have any incentive to compete on price. Result: ever-higher health care costs, leading to ever-higher insurance costs.

It may seem natural to rely on insurance to pay for ordinary health needs, but it isn't. After all, we don't use auto insurance for tune-ups or tires. Homeowners insurance doesn't cover paint jobs or new appliances. Those kinds of costs we pay out of pocket, which is why we do things like get written estimates or check Consumer Reports. When we're footing the bill, price and value matter.

So why are medical expenses different? The answer has nothing to do with health care — and everything to do with the tax code.

For more than 60 years, federal law has excluded the value of employer-provided health insurance from the employee's taxable income. Buy your own health insurance, and you pay for it with after-tax dollars. Get health insurance through your employer, and it's tax-free.

This policy dates from World War II, when a labor shortage caused by wage controls led employers to offer health insurance in lieu of cash as a way to recruit and retain employees. When the IRS agreed to go along with the legal fiction that this employer-paid benefit wasn't really income, it triggered a radical — but unintended — change in the way Americans paid for health care. Within 10 years, the number of people with health insurance had soared from fewer than 3 million to nearly 80 million. And instead of the limited coverage that used to be the norm — typically, only hospitalization was insured against — health insurance gradually expanded to cover day-to-day medical costs.

Economics and human nature don't change when it comes to health care: Insulate consumers from the cost of the choices they make, and those choices tend to become more extravagant and oblivious to price. Give them a reason to care about the bottom line, and their spending becomes more cost-conscious and careful.

Which is why real health care reform starts with tax reform.

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After 60 years, it's too late to repeal the tax shelter for employer-provided health insurance. But why not extend that favorable treatment to individuals' own health expenditures? The goal should be to alter the way people buy health care by giving them a financial stake in its cost. That would be the result of leveling the playing field between medical benefits provided by an employer and those that taxpayers provide for themselves.

As John Cogan and Daniel Kessler of Stanford's Hoover Institution and R. Glenn Hubbard of Columbia have proposed, all medical expenses should be made tax-deductible for everyone, so long as they are covered for catastrophic health care. Medical expenses would include an employee's contribution to employer-provided insurance or the cost of insurance purchased individually, as well as out-of-pocket spending. Taxpayers would be free to stick with their employer's expensive health plan if they wished, but now there would be no tax incentive to do so. Most employees would choose to switch to a cheaper health plan with higher deductibles and co-pays. Employers' health care costs would fall sharply, and market pressures would ensure that those savings returned to employees in the form of higher wages.

Higher co-pays will make consumers "more cost-conscious and more willing to take greater control of health care decisions," write Cogan, Kessler, and Hubbard. "Ultimately, consumers will make better health care choices, achieving improved . . . outcomes and considerable savings." Based on RAND Corporation research, they estimate that making medical expenses deductible would reduce health care spending by $40 billion — all without forcing a single benefit cut on anyone.

With health care no longer a function of employment, concerns about portability would vanish — your benefits would go wherever you went. Because insurance would be more affordable, fewer Americans would remain uninsured. Above all, consumers would be in charge of their own health care. As a result, providers would compete for their business and prices would come out of the shadows. Would it be the last word in health care reform? Far from it. But it would make a terrific first step.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

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