DeLong’s Unrealistic, Impractical, Utopian Health Care Plan

Brad DeLong proposes what he rightly calls an “An Unrealistic, Impractic[al], Utopian Plan for Dealing with the Health Care Opportunity.”

What’s particularly interesting about it is that it begins with a whopping twenty percent tax on every worker in the country, adds in unspecified “sin taxes” on everything that’s bad for you, and still figures that some people will fall through the cracks and need more money from the general fund. That’s a rather staggering opportunity cost on the whole society to pay for a relatively small problem: Americans who are simultaneously seriously ill and inadequately insured.

Yes, DeLong’s plan would rebate each individual’s unused health care at the end of the year (or roll it into retirement savings). Still, for most people under, say, 50, that’s an inordinate amount of money rendered unusable throughout the year that could be more profitably used elsewhere. The health care needs of most under-40 people, certainly, are quite minimal.

For those making a lot of money (say, $100,000 a year) this plan amounts to a massive loan to the government (or whoever is managing the health savings account). For those making less money (say, $30,000) it is a huge hit on the ability to take care of basic needs. And, again, few of those people are having much difficulty meeting their health care needs now.

DeLong is right, however, in his emphasis on preventative care. That we have created a system where those who can’t afford to pay for their own health care (either directly or via insurance) wind up getting it in the most expensive possible way (through the emergency room) is insane. But, surely, there’s an easier way to fix that problem than a massive tax increase. Let alone an incredibly expensive army of roving doctors, nurses, refrigerator inspectors, and pilates instructors.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.