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The time is now to give health care reform a second, better look

I am a fool. I actually believe that governance should be tilted toward the benefit of those in need. 

My biggest financial worry in life is that the ATM at my bank is outside in the weather. It might rain or snow. But people less fortunate than I, financially, don’t have to worry about the ATM. They don’t need one because they have no money in the bank. 

Perhaps we should increase their cost of medical insurance or deny it altogether. Then I can have even better tax advantages, which I so desperately want because, well, I could go to the ATM more often; even if it rains.

While it is true that Obama’s first try at addressing health care has faults, what were a few hundred poorly evaluated pages of an “improvement” that only took seven years to botch, going to do to fix it?

Think about it, lawmakers. If my neighbor has to return to the days of health care by emergency room, how have we benefited as a society? It wouldn’t save money in the long run. 

You guys are mostly already rich and have Cadillac insurance fully paid for by our government. Do you really need to create another tax advantage for the rich? Do not take away the hope of the poor. 

When society becomes too stratified in wealth, it becomes unstable. That is what causes most revolutions. The rich benefit justly when the poor benefit equally.

Even Bush 41 wanted a kinder and gentler nation. We all need health care just as we all need food. As a nation, we are very stingy about feeding our people. Even Ancient Rome passed out free bread to the poor. Let’s not become even stingier by putting health care out of reach for many people.

So how can I swim upriver against such a travesty? My suggestion is to graduate the cost of care according to one’s needs and means. In some cases, that cost needs to be negative. We who can pay should pay enough so that we can afford to gift health to our fellow Americans. Consider fully incorporating health insurance into our tax system. Not with finite and arbitrary thresholds as recently proposed, but with a percentage graduation that evenly applies to every individual or household. 

Sure, everybody should have some benefit such as a fair deduction for health care, but some need to have a reverse tax to ensure that they are insured. The threshold for medical deductions should be a function of one’s actual income. Where that income is insufficient to pay for basic health care, there must be a negative tax, paid directly to providers, for the benefit of those who most desperately need it.

I am aware that a ‘refundable tax credit’ was crudely included in the Trump/Ryan proposal, but it was not well-designed. Even some Republicans agreed with Tom Cotton, who called to slow it down and get it right. There was too much hurry and not enough thought invested in the first version of the health care bill. 

There is also the issue of health for those people who, for whatever reason, don’t file any tax return. How do we show mercy to them? Fix the problems but don’t ditch the progress that we have made toward being a more egalitarian society. 

Please take the time now to design a health care bill that is actually an improvement to the ACA, in which case I will become an ardent supporter.

Perhaps the basic issue is whether or not health care is a right rather than a commodity. Consider that most hospitals have received government funds and pay no tax. Medical schools and their graduates have certainly benefited from public support in one way or another. We, the tax-paying populace, have already paid in large part for the existing medical infrastructure, and thereby deserve to benefit equally from that infrastructure. 

A health insurance card should be much the equivalent of a Social Security card, issued to every resident. Lawmakers, it is your job to make it so.

 

Philip Truax lives in Sharon, has been a local computer businessman since 1982, and is a family man and grandfather. He received a master’s degree from Yale Divinity School in 2013.