Junk Food Taxes For Universal Healthcare Coming to Colorado?

August 23, 2007

Looking for ways to possibly expand government health care programs in Colorado, a commission has made various recommendations on how to fund such an expansion, including raising payroll taxes, as well as a favorite of many nanny-staters — taxing products that some bureaucrat has deemed “unhealthy.” Oh, and of course, we have to tax smokers even more, because they shouldn’t be smoking in the first place, according to the saintly bureaucrats who eat only healthy products and never drink or smoke. From the Denver Post:

Proposals to bring better medical care to more Coloradans could cost more than $1 billion for families, employers, and the state and federal governments, according to an analysis released Tuesday.

Colorado’s 208 Commission — created by the legislature last year to develop health care reform ideas — is now plowing through an economic analysis of four very different ideas for changing health care.

The problem: About 17 percent of Coloradans have no health insurance, slightly more than the national average.

Those 790,000 people have worse health outcomes than the insured, and when they get expensive care from hospital emergency rooms, it boosts the cost of health insurance for other people and businesses.

The solutions range from a limited, low-cost health insurance plan cutting the number of uninsured by 40 percent to all but eliminating private insurance by bringing everyone under a single state plan funded by raising income and payroll taxes.

The 260-page analysis lays out how much each plan will cost and who will pay.

“Now we can get a real sense of what happens when you mandate coverage versus making coverage optional; what’s the impact of subsidies, of increasing Medicaid coverage?” said Bill Lindsay, the commission’s chairman. “These are the details we need.”

The thinking of some of those who favor expanded government-provided health insurance financed via targeted taxes is twisted. On one hand, they argue that the government needs to insure everyone, but the next minute they say that smokers, drinkers, and others should have to pay for the costs they impose because that’s not fair to the others who don’t engage in those “risky” behaviors. In essence, they are making the argument that those who need the most health care should pay for it themselves, which is also known as private health care.

Or should the government provide health care to all and then pick and choose which activities should be discouraged so as to save costs to the health care system? It could do this in one of two ways: by not covering health care costs that are deemed to be directly due to such unhealthy behavior (such as emphezema in smokers), or by taxing certain products so as to discourage their consumption by everyone. The former is much superior to the latter in terms of fairness and likely effectiveness in saving the system money. But if we choose the latter, we can go down this road forever where government regulates, taxes or subsidizes every decision we make since they could all have health care consequences that could impose higher costs on the system, whether it’s at the bar, on the road, in the bedroom, at the amusement park, in the kitchen, at the gym, or anywhere else.

It all stems from the view that on one hand, a person should be responsible for the health care of his neighbor, but on the other hand, he should not be responsible for the health care of his neighbor if that neighbor chooses X activity. The argument states that the neighbor chooses X activity, that neighbor should thereby bear the costs of his decision either through an imperfect tax that charges even healthy people for their participation in X activity or through a lack of health care coverage for any condition that results from X activity.


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