Healthcare and Taxes

Despite its obvious shortcomings, I have never questioned that Obama’s healthcare plan is a major step forward for the United States, since it takes a positive step toward moving American healthcare from a privilege to a right.

This is exactly why I was horrified to see the new proposal by the Quebec government on provincial healthcare, which has been the subject of much local coverage and debate in the past week. The proposal institutes a new flat tax for healthcare (starting at $25, climbing to $200) as well as $25 co-pays per doctor visit up to 1% of a family’s income, which is some kind of perverse combination of flat taxes and a levy on the sick (and large families, which Quebec is elsewhere trying to encourage). This is one of those moments where it is important to remember that Quebec has no real functioning provincial conservative party, and our current “liberal” premier defected from the progressive-conservatives some time ago. This is also evident in that sales taxes, another regressive tax, will also be going up.

This proposal makes no sense to me. The point of socialized medicine is that the whole society carries the burden of the sick rather than the sick themselves. People are debating over whether the Quebec system is as efficient as it could be with the money it has, but I would defy anyone to have spent the 16-odd days I spent in Montreal General (not to mention the dozens of visits to doctors I’ve made in the past year) and not leave thinking the system could use some more money.

So here’s a counterproposal: raise marginal income tax rates on the richest Quebecers. That would raise just as much if not more money, and it would place the financial burden on the people most able to carry it. Now, before you get all huffy with me that I am some do-gooder class-traitor lefty (guilty) pointing my finger at a class of rich people to which I’ll never belong, let me establish a few facts:

the Quebec liberal government recently cut taxes, in what can only be called a spectacularly and short-sighted move. Surveys of Quebec residents showed clear popular opposition to those tax cuts.

–the top marginal tax rate in Quebec has a surprisingly low threshold for people like me who are used to US tax brackets: just under $77,000. So I am asking for higher income taxes for myself, so that my less-fortunate neighbor down the street does not have to pay $25 every time he or she goes to the doctor. The issue is not that I am sick and would be therefore disproportionately affected by this fee, although I would be. The issue is that in socialized medicine, the sick should not shoulder a disproportionate burden of the cost of healthcare. It should be spread fairly across the society. And fairness dictates those with greater means should pay more.

I have been meaning to post about my hospital stay for some time. Maybe I’ll start with financials.