Tuesday 21 July 2009

Are we really worried about $ 23.9 billion per year for healthcare?

The debate over healthcare has switched from a discussion of the technical benefits of the bill (HR 3200: America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009), to the ways in which it can be funded.

David Herszenhorn and Robert Pear reported in the New York Times yesterday (Democrats May Limit Tax Increases for Health Care Plan) on the question on whether a tax surcharge should be levied to pay for the bill.

Perry Bacon and Michael Fletcher reported in the Washington Post today on the republican strategy for defeating the healthcare bill (GOP Focuses Effort To Kill Health Bills) as being fundamentally guided by cost issues in a declining economy.

According to the CBO budget analysis on HR3200, which has been quoted extensively in recent days, the unfunded liabilities associated with the healthcare bill (in its present form), total $ 239 billion over 10 years. Yes, the cost is over $ 1 trillion on 10 years, but “only” $ 239 billion is unfunded.

This amounts to $ 23.9 billion per year.

This is the cost of covering 37 million additional people currently not covered, as well as improving access for people currently enrolled and making healthcare portable.

In contrast, the United States spends over $ 600 billion per year in military expenditure, of which over $ 100 billion per year are dedicated to military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Our elected leaders should stop dithering and pass the bill. The costs per year are marginal in an annual Federal budget of $ 1.4 trillion: the public benefit in productivity and improved access is unsurpassed.

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