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Home > Opinion-Editorials: 2006
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Health Care on Tax Day: How Government Spending Damages Your Health

By Richard E. Ralston
April 15, 2006

When you file your tax return on April 15, know that even more of your taxes will be eaten up by government spending on health care. You should also ask why so much of the income you have left is spent on health care and health insurance. The two questions are related.

The plain fact is that the U.S. government spends more of your tax dollars "providing" health care every year. The expense is increasing rapidly, and the rate of increase for Medicare and other programs will escalate further as the years pass. A huge new wave of government spending is coming on line this year to pay for the Medicare Prescription Drug Program. At the same time, what you have to pay for health care or health insurance will increase even faster. Since the 1960s the government share of health care spending has increased from less than 10% to more than 50%. This may seem illogical. It is not. It is the ruthless logic of cause and effect. Your health care costs will continue to escalate not in spite of government involvement with health care, but because of it.

How can anyone seriously think that if cost is the problem, the Federal government is the solution? As P.J. O'Rourke has remarked, "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait until it is free."

Contemporary medicine, from the development of new prescription drugs, to revolutionary diagnostic tools, to innovative new treatments and breakthrough surgical procedures, is a highly technological achievement. It is all changing at breathtaking speed. It is based on dynamic science that the government cannot begin to understand, let alone micro-manage. Government cannot add clarity to the process. It can probably destroy a lot of this progress through rationing, controls, bureaucracy, and political favoritism. And the government approach, such as pumping in a lot more money, adding to 130,000 pages of Medicare regulations, and hiring more regulators, just adds to the cost of cost control. The government cannot even control the cost of something as straightforward as postage stamps!

Health care can be expensive. Innovation, breakthrough technologies, and new drugs all require brains, hard work, and freedom. Private investors require one other thing that government programs do not: results. Government spending and controls will chase away the investments that get those results, and attract those who want to build administrative empires with your taxes.

A near government monopoly on anything becomes an enormous magnet that draws in special interests, political cronies, and anyone with an agenda that cannot resist the levers of power. Would powerful national health care unions focus on better health care or on higher wages and shorter hours for their members? Would politicians serve first the interest of patients, or those of workers whose paychecks are automatically tapped every month to make political contributions? Would medical research benefit everyone, or just those with "politically correct" diseases? Would public assistance go to those least able to afford insurance or to those with the most political pull? The possibilities that politicians can exploit are endless.

The best way to keep down both taxes and costs is to keep control of our own health care. That means that we must take responsibility to insure that it is paid for. Recent tax code provisions for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) can help us do this. In conjunction with low-premium, high-deductible health insurance policies, HSAs put health care within the financial reach of most Americans. These HSAs can be improved by allowing larger contributions and tax exemption for the cost of insurance premiums.

If you would like to have a healthier experience on April 15th in future years, look into tax-free Health Savings Accounts. Take advantage of new market developments like health clinics in large retail stores, or cash-for-service options, which reduce billing and administrative costs. Also, fight to liberate your health insurance premiums from the burden of tax and to keep the heavy hand of government-managed health care from threatening your life.

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.


Copyright © 2006 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.
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