August 26, 2009

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Health Care Reform: Ladies and Gentlemen, we must do something!

Healthcare costs across the United States have increased at an annual rate of 6.1% since 1990 and, as of 2007, are currently at $2.2 trillion. Without healthcare reform, health insurance premiums could nearly double by 2020, according to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, a 90-year-old nonprofit healthcare charity. According to “Paying the Price: How Health Insurance Premiums Are Eating Up Middle-Class Incomes,” employer-sponsored family plans will rise from an average $12,298 in 2008 to $23,842 in 2020 if healthcare costs continue to rise at the current rate. (The same coverage would have cost close to $9,200 in 2003.)

As reported in the National Center for Policy Analysis (accessed 8/24/09), Medicare’s trustees found that within 7 years, Medicare taxes will fall short of Medicare expenses by more than 45%. Could we end up forcing the elderly to pay for future deficits with higher Medicare premiums? Monthly premiums in constant dollars would more than quadruple by 2020, rising to almost 30 times their current level by 2080. At that point, for average-wage earners, the required monthly premiums would consume more than the entire Social Security benefit (from which the premiums are automatically deducted).

Using taxes to fund the projected Medicare shortfall is equally unpalatable. We would need a 10% increase in all nonpayroll taxes by 2020 and a 50% increase by 2080—the close of the trustees’ 75-year projection period.

To all of you who think we’re moving too fast on reform, I ask: How much longer can we wait? To those willing to sacrifice the common good to their own personal profits, I ask: How can you live with yourself? For those who oppose the current legislation, I say: Fine! But stop rabble-rousing and troublemaking and propose some legitimate, viable alternatives.

For the love of Pete, we have got to do SOMETHING!

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