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Financing Health Care Reform

Before the Senate Committee on Finance

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Document date: May 12, 2009
Released online: May 12, 2009

The text below is an excerpt from the complete testimony. Read the full written testimony in PDF format.

Abstract

The latest statistics show that 46 million Americans were uninsured in 2007. Health care costs threaten to bankrupt the nation if we can't figure out a way to slow their growth and pay for the government's growing share. Adding to the government's unfunded health care obligations would be reckless and irresponsible. In this statement, I will discuss some issues involved in measuring the impact of health care financing options, discuss an option to pay for universal health care coverage with a value added tax (VAT), and examine several incremental options to pay for all or part of health care coverage expansions.


Testimony

Senator Baucus, Ranking Member Grassley, and Members of the Committee. Thank you for inviting me to present my views on financing health care reform. Views expressed are my own and do not represent those of the Tax Policy Center or the Urban Institute.

I applaud the committee for its leadership in finding ways to expand access to health care in a fiscally responsible manner. The latest statistics show that 46 million Americans were uninsured in 2007. In the current economic downturn, millions more have likely lost their health insurance either because they have lost their jobs or because their employer cannot afford to continue offering health insurance. All told, 50 million or more people in the richest country in the world may lack health insurance coverage.

People without health insurance often delay seeking medical care when ill, and when they do visit an emergency room, they often receive substandard care. Those who have savings can get better care, but at the risk of financial ruin from any serious illness. And the uninsured impose costs on the rest of society. For example, I'd like to think that everyone infected with the H1N1 virus ("swine flu") would contact their medical provider, but people without health insurance often do not have a primary care provider and will postpone seeking care until they are very ill. This puts them at heightened risk of death and puts everyone they come into contact with while they postpone receiving care at risk of infection.

I especially applaud the committee and the president for insisting that health reform be accomplished in a fiscally responsible manner. As you well know, health care costs threaten to bankrupt the nation if we can't figure out a way to slow their growth and pay for the government's growing share. Adding to the government's unfunded health care obligations would be reckless and irresponsible.

In this brief statement, I will discuss some issues involved in measuring the impact of health care financing options, discuss an option to pay for universal health care coverage with a value added tax (VAT), and examine several incremental options to pay for all or part of health care coverage expansions.

(End of excerpt. Read the full written testimony in PDF format.)



Topics/Tags: | Health/Healthcare


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