House leaders have come forth with a health care plan. "Big Business," Republicans and medical providers will attack it. But, based on what I've read so far, there is a lot in here that makes sense. Last month I took my elected representatives to task for their waffling on health care. Now that the House members have proposed legislation, it seems fair that I take a few minutes to talk about what they appear to have gotten right.
First off, insurance companies will be prevented from denying people coverage or charging exorbitant premiums for pre-existing conditions. They should be.
Second, a government plan, modeled after the highly successful health care plan for seniors, Medicare, will be made available to all citizens. It must be.
Finally, the legislation will be paid for by raising taxes on those who can afford it more than others, the very rich. And, the government is finally recognizing the difference between the rich and the really, really rich. Those with income over $280,000 will see a 1% surtax. That's taxable income, adjusted for deductions. That means true income in excess of $300,000. How can anyone making that kind of money cry over an additional $2800 in tax? Those making over $500,000 will see a larger increase and those who make over a million a year will see the largest increase.
This is how it should work. Currently, the top income tax bracket begins at $370,000. That's a lot of money. But it's a long distance from there to a million or more a year. In addition, these million dollar earners pay only 2% more in tax than those in the second highest bracket (over $171,000 a year) and 7% more than those who make $82,000 a year. It's time we recognized the difference between the really rich and those who are merely wealthy. An additional high income tax bracket should be introduced for the multi-millionaires. They won't miss the money.
According to the IRS, one quarter of all income is earned by people in these tax brackets. Not only is it fairer to tax them more, it's an efficient way to raise a lot of money. After all, you are raising taxes on 25% of the U.S. earned income but you only have to raise taxes on 1.2% of the taxpayers to do it!
The attacks to come will tell you that by taxing rich people, they'll stop "driving the economy." Well, rich people never drove the economy and they never will. They take a disproportionate amount of the money but do not create a disproportionate amount of the wealth, except for themselves and their heirs. Think about it. How could 1.2% of the population drive the economy? Even if they spent every cent they earned (not very likely, eh?), they would still be dwarfed in spending by the rest of the population. The middle class drive the economy.
They'll tell you that, if their health care costs rise, corporations will stop hiring. That's bull. Companies hire people when they see an opportunity to increase their business. Though controlling costs is important, the opportunity to increase and expand its business really drives a corporation and that depends on consumerism. If the middle class can afford more because they are no longer over burdened by health care costs, they will consume more and businesses will thrive.
Finally, they will tell you that a government backed health plan or "public option" will put insurance companies out of business. To this I say, so what? Smartly run insurance companies will find a way to compete, probably by offering better service and better prices than they did in the past. The rest can go out of business just as any other poorly run, over priced business can.
With the House on the right track, we now need to be wary of a watered-down version emerging from committee as well as from the Senate. Our politicians may settle for weaker legislation, possibly without a public option or as elegant a taxation plan. Be sure your elected representatives hear from you. Make sure they deliver the health care we need.
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