The 1,018-page House bill (HR 3200) is a decidedly mixed bag, reflecting the difficulty of making large-scale repairs while preserving the healthcare options people have today. The measure would make some important changes in the way healthcare is delivered and financed, yet it falls short of some goals and overshoots others.
The bill ... doesn't move as aggressively as it should to reduce the incentives for wasteful, inefficient or unnecessary procedures. It would extend coverage to millions of the uninsured but would pay for that expansion in too narrow a way. Part would be covered by a hefty tax on employers that don't provide insurance, a burden that would fall hardest on businesses with thin profits and low-wage workers. And part would be borne just by the wealthiest 2 million Americans, even though the benefits of the program would be spread broadly.
Ideally, lawmakers would finance those changes in ways that would increase consumers' sensitivity to healthcare costs without eliminating jobs and slowing economic growth. The House bill fails that test for a couple of reasons: It suggests to most Americans that they're getting a better healthcare system for free, and it makes one small group pay for improvements that benefit everyone. Taxes on the wealthy and businesses can help, but the middle class should contribute too, not only because it's the right thing to do but also to make the funding less vulnerable to economic downturns.
For starters, lawmakers should consider rolling back the tax exemption for employee healthcare benefits. The exemption is worth $3.5 trillion over 10 years, so even a modest reduction could raise a significant amount. Such a move would face stiff resistance from unions and President Obama, who promised not to raise taxes on the middle class. But it would send the valuable message that everyone pays for this reform because everyone benefits.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
The Los Angeles Times has struggled for years to moderate its left-coast political leanings, but is still reliably supportive of the Democratic agenda. In an editorial today, however, its careful criticism of the healthcare proposals coming out of Congress amounts to an outright rejection. They even make excellent points against universal healthcare. The Times they are a-changin! Excerpts:
Posted by Scott Grannis at 11:30 AM