Our Unhealthy Tax Code
If progressives want to cure what ails the health care system, they first have to put the tax code on the examination table.
And let us remember, no plan for universal insurance will be easy. The principal goal of universal insurance is to provide more health care for the uninsured and to reimburse them for more of the costs they are currently paying themselves. Even with some savings from better preventative care, reduced visits to emergency rooms to deliver routine care, and reductions in uncompensated care, the total bill for universal insurance is likely to be anywhere from $50 billion to $200 billion, depending on the details of the plan and who is doing the cost estimates.
Nevertheless, there are many areas in which our tax code’s perverse incentives take us in the wrong direction, wasting money and exacerbating inequality across society. Although conservatives talk a lot about efficiency, ultimately their tax policies reflect their values: a desire for an even less progressive distribution of resources and a smaller government. Progressives should focus more on efficiency, not just in the traditional economic sense but also in terms of ensuring that our limited resources are put to the best use in achieving those social goals–-like helping families pay for college or health care–that are increasingly being funded through the tax system. There is no better place to start than with our number-one national problem: health care. And if we cure what ails our tax code, making it more progressive and fair, we can put health care within reach for all Americans.
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