Emmett Tyrrell

WASHINGTON -- Well, you might ask in the aftermath of the Democrats' unseemly frenzy to create a health care reform that restrains expenses and extends health care to those who need or want it, is there an alternative? Through all the Democrats' wheeling, dealing and spilling of red ink, sensible health care innovations have been available. They are modern reforms that have been hammered out in conservative think tanks over the years. Wherever they have been tried, they have shown promise. Yet during the Democrats' Capitol Hill revels, they have hardly been heard of. Allow me to suggest a modest health care alternative to what commonly is called the present Congress' health care monstrosity.

The United States spends more than twice what the average industrialized nation spends on health care. Though forget not that American health care is the best in the world. Equally significant, the cost of health care is growing at just less than 5 percent annually, a leading reason that some Americans are not insured and that Medicare and Medicaid are heading for financial ruin. A major reason for this rising cost is the federal tax code's exclusion of employer-provided health insurance. This is unfair to those who must purchase insurance with after-tax dollars. Moreover, it blinds consumers of employer-provided health care to the real costs of their health care and puts pressure upward on health care's costs.

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The solution is to be found in bringing health care to the marketplace. End the tax deductibility of employer-provided health care. Allow every citizen, except those enrolled in Medicare or in military health plans, to receive a refundable tax credit to purchase a health savings account. The key thing is that people should have a choice of plans. The tax credit should be available not only to those who purchase HSAs. Some people, for instance, have higher medical costs, so they may prefer more comprehensive policies. But we could encourage more widespread use of HSAs by raising the cap on the amount of money that people could put in them. Also, owners of HSAs should be allowed to purchase health insurance in any state in the country. The money should be applicable to those employer-sponsored plans still available or to any health care plan an individual or family chooses, thus allowing product competition. Unused money in each account should be rolled over in succeeding years, and whatever money remains in each account should be part of the account holder's estate upon death.

Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
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