Wednesday, January 25, 2006

health care and taxes

The de facto President's idea for increasing tax breaks for medical expenses for individuals looks like a marginal help at best. It would do little for the uninsured poor, who don't pay much in taxes anyway and can't even AFFORD to pay for health care.

Key Bush economic adviser Allan Hubbard said "... Americans are not as careful consumers of health care as they are in shopping for other services, because insurance masks from them much of the cost. He said the price and quality of health care would improve if consumers were given greater financial incentives and had to decide for themselves how much care they really need."

That's because health care is fundamentally different than buying a car or house or loaf of bread. Hardly any of us are remotely qualified to make informed decisions about medical care; we have to rely on experts to tell us what the problem is and what should be done. Also health care is rarely by choice optional. If the price is too high or money is tight, you can forego buying a new car or home theater system or going out for dinner without great hardship. Can't say the same for getting that broken leg fixed or having that tumor looked at. We need to admit that health care is NOT and cannot be a "normal market" and that some level of government regulation and intervention is necessary.

We should also should recognize that the current US practice of providing insurance through employers discriminates against the unemployed and those who don't get much insurance through their job, but also works against EMPLOYERS themselves.