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Paul's good health care idea won't ever survive

About Jack Markowitz
Picture Jack Markowitz 412-380-8551
Business Columnist
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Retired business editor Jack Markowitz writes Sundays and Thursdays.

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By Jack Markowitz

Published: Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009

Ron Paul, the libertarian congressman from Texas, whom nobody ever confused with a me-too Republican, has proposed a health care reform that deserves the name "reform."

It's almost certain not to get anywhere, though. Which might be a mercy. Americans might risk broken arms reaching for it too fast.

It's this. Whatever a family has to pay for the doctor, the hospital, the pills or the shots, it could deduct on their federal tax return.

Get that• A 100 percent tax credit on health care costs. Socialized medicine turned inside out, you might say.

Instead of the government taking care of us, we take care of ourselves. And by just that amount, lowering our tax bills.

The screams in Washington might be heard clear to Pittsburgh, where the congressman who marches to his own drummer grew up in suburban Munhall. Pangs of tax starvation would grip the Treasury. Rep. Paul, a retired physician, would treat that malady by putting Uncle Sam on a severe spending diet. In short, a snowball's chance.

Yet his proposed H.R. 1495, the Comprehensive Health Care Reform Act of 2009 is a useful exercise. It demonstrates how market forces might yet rope in the inflation that's stampeding toward socialism.

Recall how irritating it is at income tax time to find you can deduct medical expenses only over 7.5 percent of income• Paul would abolish that threshold. All medical costs, including for high-deductible insurance tied a Health Savings Account (HSA), would go toward a tax credit. And the credit could be refunded against payroll taxes, letting low-wage workers in on it.

Other freedom enhancements are written into Paul's legislative initiatives that news media ought to, but rarely give, a mention.

For instance, his Freedom from Unnecessary Litigation Act (H.R. 1498). The lawyers' lobby invariably swats down all efforts at tort reform. Paul would go around them with a tax credit for "negative outcomes insurance." The patient might buy it before surgery. Bad result, the policy pays off. The system as a whole would save untold billions in insurance liability costs for doctors and hospitals. Plus the vast waste of "defensive" medicine's excessive testing. And the loss of physician talent by early retirements in disgust.

All these ideas are featured in a new bulletin from the Campaign for Liberty organization spun off by Paul's one-man crusades. He doesn't completely absolve his fellow docs. He thinks the healing establishment long ago fostered a shortage of practitioners by too tight accreditation of medical schools and intolerance of unconventional methods.

Paul's HR 2629, the Coercion is Not Health Care Act, would bar the government from forcing anyone to buy health insurance, exactly the key compulsion in President Obama's and Congress' long-running efforts to "reform" health care.

Nobody young, healthy or unwilling can be left out of universal coverage, says the socializers. Otherwise, the insurance pool won't be wide enough to balance those with pre-existing conditions whose care is costliest.

But if freedom is given up, says Ron Paul, where's the reform?

 

 
 


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