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Death and taxes and the motive of government-managed health care

By Richard E. Ralston
web posted April 13, 2009

When you file your taxes this year, consider this certainty: As an ever-increasing amount of our taxes are appropriated for government spending on health care, tax policy ultimately has little to do with attempting to improve the quality and affordability of health care. It is the other way around: Government involvement in our health is usually an excuse to serve a completely different political agenda.

Recently President Obama proposed that taxes be increased and set aside into a "reserve fund" of $634 billion to pay for about half of the anticipated increase in government spending on medical care. Such a reserve would of course be an accounting fiction like the Medicare and Social Security trust funds. It will not be put into gold bars and buried under the Treasury Department but will be used to buy government securities and then immediately spent on other new, multi-trillion-dollar programs. As demands are placed on the reserve, the government would just have to borrow more.

But more important than the amount is the nature of the tax increases: the reduction in tax deductibility for contributions to charities. Because the government needs the money to pay for government health care, private contributions to non-profit hospitals, medical schools, charity clinics and other organizations will decline. Does a policy with these consequences make sense?

Unfortunately it does "make sense" for those whose objective is dependence on government as such. From that point of view, the true benevolence of private charity is the enemy of the forced altruism of taxation. Giving your money voluntarily to causes you choose to support is discouraged, in favor of making that money available for legalized expropriation by a government asserting its power in medical care.

The recent expansion of the State Children's Insurance Program also had more to do with the broader agenda of dependence. Why move millions of children who already have private insurance into a government program? To make them dependent on government for one more important aspect of their daily lives. The large tax increase on a rapidly diminishing pool of cigarette smokers, apart from being a cruel exploitation of many who may be addicted to their habit, will leave the program without funding in a few years. In the meantime, private contributions to non-profit children's hospitals will have been cut by tax policy.

Another example is efforts in Congress to develop legislation in support of special-interest groups that are now intimidating private foundations away from their original purposes. Foundations dedicated to supporting medical care or research may increasingly be forced to support alien agendas of race, gender, environment or ideology. That will be a major blow against benevolence and charity, in favor of altruism by government compulsion.

If you would like to have a healthier experience on April 15 in future years, look into tax-free Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). One modest bit of relief is that the U.S. Government and all but four states still allow you to make contributions to HSAs from before-tax income. (California, for one, unfortunately does not allow it--legislators maintain that citizens cannot afford health insurance. But citizens can somehow afford to pay taxes on the income used to pay insurance premiums.)

Other hopes are to take advantage of new market developments: health clinics in large retail stores; switching, when possible, to cheaper generic drugs resulting from increased retail competition; cash-for-service providers, which reduce billing and administrative costs.

On April 15, certainly pay your taxes. Then fight to liberate all medical expenses and health insurance premiums from the burden of tax and regulation. Fight to keep the heavy hand of government-managed health care from threatening your life. ESR

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine, Newport Beach, California. Copyright © 2009 Americans for Free Choice in Medicine. All rights reserved.


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