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Thursday, September 16, 2004

Bush is peddling HSA snakeoil again

AWol was in Minnesota campaigning on healthcare, which is sort of like Michael Jackson talking about the importance of being normal. Part of Bush's "health care plan" is the health savings account pay now, get nothing later scam, which I ranted about extensively last month. When Bush said "My opponent wants government to dictate; I want you to decide when it comes to health care," what he really means is "I want to give my wealthy friends yet another way to steal poor people's money."

I don't know. Maybe Bush actually believes that cutting taxes will balance the budget, or that attacking Iraq actually helps to stop terrorism. If so, then he's more stupid than evil on these issues. And while HSA's are a minor issue compared to those, I just don't see any way they could be possibly spun in any way that doesn't make him pure evil. If he really wants to use the tax code to help people with medical expenses, a much simpler way would be to push for making ALL medical expenses deductible (I think currently it's only expenses over 7.5% of income). There would be much better ways of doing it, of course, but this would be a very simple, straightforward way that offered more benefit and less risk to healthcare consumers. It wouldn't affect anyone's ability to decide when it comes to health care; it would just mean that they would only need to pay for what they get. It wouldn't even negatively affect the Fed's tax revenues compared to if HSA's did become widely used; people would still be getting deductions, but for real instead of estimated expenses. So, compared to HSA's, a simple deduction is a win for the patient and a win for the treasury. Only the HSA administering company loses, since they would have been denied the opportunity to take people's money in return for nothing. And THAT is what Bush is pushing for.

I think HSA's may be one of the sleaziest snakeoil schemes any politician has proposed since the state lotteries. I HATE state lotteries! Here's the basic idea--We, your state politicians, need $5 million for school funding. Rather than asking you directly to pay the taxes needed to raise that money, we're instead going to sell you $11 million in lottery tickets. We'll get the $5 million for the schools, a tiny minority of you will get large cash prizes (heavily taxable) totalling $5.5 million, and we'll spend the remaining half a million on advertising to convince you of how fun it all is. We, your craven politicians, love this because we'll get most of this money from lower-income types, whereas a proper tax would require much more money from our wealthy supporters. That you'd get much better odds at any casino or horse track is something we're counting on you not figuring out, because the schools in your neighborhoods won't be getting enough of that funding to teach your kids things like probability. Thank you for supporting YOUR state lottery!