#177 – Dick Bernard: Health Care Reform and Taxes

Written by admin on March 23rd, 2010

Strictly by coincidence, our appointment with the tax preparer today was at the same time President Obama was signing the Health Care Reform Act passed by Congress on Sunday evening. Preparing for the tax preparer the last few days gave me the annual up close and personal look at my own economic facts, as opposed to the abundant written, spoken and visual rhetoric surrounding tax season and health care reform. I keep records, and it is always interesting (not always fun) to review the events of the previous year. The financial documents box is my annual financial diary….

Every person and family is different, so I don’t pretend to offer us as a “typical” example.

But I would guesstimate that we are not at all unusual compared with the vast majority of ordinary middle class Americans. We are probably a little above average, but I’m not at all sure about that. Both of us worked full careers, and were fortunate to qualify for pensions.

After filing out taxes, today, we know that about 10% of our income in 2009 went to Federal taxes; another 5% to the State. It would be a real stretch to claim that this is confiscatory or unreasonable. Another percent or two paid on top of both Federal and State, or even more, would not kill us financially, and would do a whole lot of good for things like repairing potholes, and taking care of more vulnerable citizens than ourselves. It’s our dues for living in society.

Sure, I know: every time we buy something we pay additional taxes. When I had my daily cup of coffee at the local coffee house early this morning (my daily luxury) about 7% over and above the cost of that cup went to taxes on the sale. The business didn’t pay those taxes; I did.

Of course, there were taxes hidden in the remaining 93% of the cost of that cup as well – assorted taxes along the line. I can’t work myself into a tizzy about that, either. Taxes are easy to kick around, but they are what makes our society into a society that works. If a penny or two of that cup helped fund public schools, more power to….

On the health care front, we are reasonably healthy for our age, both of us on Medicare. Nonetheless, we paid out roughly $1000 a month in 2009 for assorted health expenses, from Medicare insurance itself, to long term care insurance, to out of pocket for non-reimbursed expenses. The insurance is there for the inevitable time that it will be needed, big time (most of us don’t die instantly, many need lots of help). No one likes to predict personal medical catastrophe for themselves, and hope they won’t be among the unlucky. But that’s what insurance is for, and no one should have to worry about being uncovered, particularly not in a wealthy country like our own (and compared with the rest of the world, most of us, even middle class, are wealthy – no question.)

(A few days ago, we took a friend out to dinner. She was laid off three months ago from a relatively low paying job. She gets unemployment, but she said she’s uninsured, as she can’t afford the premium for the insurance available to her. There is a cheaper alternative, apparently, but it is not accessible to her until she’s been unemployed for four months. So she’s playing the lottery, hoping she won’t have some kind of serious problem. She’s not alone. Some would say, “it’s her problem”. I’m not among them.)

In a couple hours we go to a grandson’s birthday party at a local pizza restaurant. Somebody will pay the bill there. There will be taxes, as there was with my coffee this morning.

I have no beef with taxes.

I’ll be wishing the new 10-year old a good future in this country of ours.

The Health Care Reform package just signed is not perfect, but it is a whole lot better than the alternative of keeping the status quo.