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Senator Kennedy's Plan to Delay Tax Cuts for the Wealthiest Americans Is A Way We Can Truly "Heal the Sick"

January 22, 2002

The health care system in the United States is being squeezed to the breaking point:

  • the cost of medical care is rising faster than it has in many years
  • elderly Americans are increasingly unable to afford prescription drugs, which are not covered by Medicare
  • the number of uninsured Americans, which is now about 40,000,000, is expected to climb as workers lose jobs
  • states, which are facing huge budget shortfalls, are issuing urgent calls for the federal government to increase its contribution to the Medicaid program, which is jointly paid for

Obviously, increased funding must be provided in order to ensure that all Americans receive decent regular health care (as opposed to access to emergency rooms, as wealthy conservatives like Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity feel is sufficient).

Kennedy Tax Plan

Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts has proposed a plan to provide an additional $300 billion for health care needs.  This would be achieved by reducing tax cuts that were called for under President Bush's tax cut plan, but only for the very wealthiest Americans

First, under the Kennedy scenario income tax cuts for the top approximately 7% of households -- those with incomes above $130,000 -- would be somewhat less than originally called for in 2004 and 2006.  Everyone else -- 93% of all Americans -- would fully enjoy their scheduled tax reductions.

Second, the estate tax would be retained, but the minimum estate value required for the tax to kick in would be raised immediately to $1 million, and would rise to $4 million by 2010.  Only 1% of estates would be subject to taxation.  In other words, 99% of all those surviving a death in the family would be unaffected by Senator Kennedy's plan.

What Sen. Kennedy said at the National Press Club succinctly spells out the choice facing us:

"Whatever the merits or demerits of last year's tax bill, it was enacted in what now seems a very different and distant time.  We must think anew, and act responsibly.

Future additional tax breaks for the wealthy do not deserve higher priority than strengthening education or covering prescription drugs under health care or meeting other urgent national priorities."

Will the rich suffer under Sen. Kennedy's plan?  Let's not shed any tears.

For example, families at the $1 million income level will receive their full $7,133 tax cut in 1992.  But in 2006, instead of a tax cut of $31,406, their taxes would "only" be reduced by $8,594.

Boutique and Concierge Medical Plans

To put things further in perspective, let's note that increasing numbers of the well-to-do -- not satisfied with the treatment that they receive under normal health insurance plans -- are joining so-called "boutique" or "concierge" medical plans where they pay their physicians thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars beyond what regular insurance plans cost.

What do these affluent patients get for that extra money?  Some of the benefits offered by various plans include:

  • "round-the-clock cell phone access to doctors
  • same-day appointments
  • nutrition and exercise physiology exams at patients' homes or health clubs
  • doctors to accompany them to specialists" and
  • in the most expensive plan, "heated towel racks, marble showers and personally monogrammed robes."

Hmmm... Forty million Americans have no health insurance at all and 20 million more are under-insured, but the wealthy are so flush with dough that they can turn their backs on normal insurance plans and spend big bucks on "boutique" medical care.

I say it's totally appropriate to reduce their tax cuts a bit so that all Americans will have access to decent health care, even if it's without heated towel racks or personally monogrammed robes.

This was a selection from The Daily Diatribe

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