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The Cost of Waiting and The Real Death Tax

beowulf's picture

Over at FDL, doublesseven wrote a diary praying for the rapid and swift recovery of Ed Schultz from his recent fit of insanity.

There was a point made that caught my eye, that 200,000 uninsured Americans will die needlessly because Obamacare won'tt get started until the beginning of 2014. So I did a little cipherin' (I'm just a small town country lawyer, see)...

The Environmental Protection Agency values a human life at $6.9 million. It used to be $7.8 million but the Bush OMB thought that was overpriced, so the 6.9 mill is, literally, a conservative figure.

So we can put a price tag on the human cost for waiting 4 years (longer than it took us to win World War II) to provide "guaranteed" coverage -- $1.38 trillion.

Just for kicks, let’s assume Obama had reversed the Bush WH’s devaluation of human life (yeah, I know that’s crazy talk), and we use the $7.8 million per human life value, the cost of waiting is $1.56 trillion.

So simply in terms of avoidable deaths, the cost of delaying "universal coverage" for 4 years will exceed the $900 billion cost HCR bill for the entire 10 years. Its backloaded to the last 6 years so Obama could stay under his foolish promise of keeping 10 year spending around $900 billion. Of course there's nothing universal about coverage that even after 2014 will still be unaffordable (but I digress).

When the President was out pitching the need for reform, he would have been on solid ground to lay out the cost of healthcare reform against the cost of healthcare inaction. Over the next 10 years, the deaths of half a million Americans (more than who’ve died fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and in all theaters of World War II) because of our immoral healthcare system will impose a cost on the US economy of between $3.45 and $3.9 trillion. Now THAT’S a death tax!

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three wickets's picture
Submitted by three wickets on

I followed your link back to FDL and beyond and couldn't find the source of that estimate saying 200,000 Americans will die because of the delay in coverage with Obamacare. Not that I'm doubting it, just wondered who was bold enough to make such an actuarial projection. Also, when you say, the death of 500,000 Americans over the next 10 years, does that figure include the people who are on Medicare. And when you quote that human life figure of 3.45 to 3.9 trillion dollars, are you saying we should be or should not be taxing the population for that amount. Because I read it as saying we should be, but I wanted to be sure.

beowulf's picture
Submitted by beowulf on

I imagine the 200,000 over 4 years is extrapolated from the 4 year total of the 45,000 or more deaths a year from the Harvard study from last fall. But thanks the power of google, I have a source for you--- Rush Limbaugh!

Using that 50,000 a year average, I just multiplied by 10 years (the length of the CBO budget period) to get the 500,000 total of Americans who'd die needlessly for wantwant of insurance (of course, as the insurers keep outpricing their customers, the 10 year estimate is probably on the low end).

As for the $3 to 4 trillion (to use round numbers) over 10 years, that's how much national wealth (per EPA cost figures) will be destroyed if we don't provide (actually provide, not pretend to provide) universal coverage. Simply by redirecting existing insurance premiums over to the Medicare trust fund we should go a long way to providing universal coverage. I'm a big fan of the Americare bill that would do that. However, if we did have to raise taxes to fund Medicare coverage for everyone, we'd be wise to point out that if we started collecting more in progressive taxes means, we'd have to pay less in "real death taxes" (as opposed to estate taxes).

three wickets's picture
Submitted by three wickets on

And I agree with you on progressive taxes to fund the possible expansion of Medicare. As for the "death tax" meme battle, it is misleading and not productive imo.

beowulf's picture
Submitted by beowulf on

And thank you for your comments. I was trying to steal the phrase "death tax" from Frank Luntz, but back to the drawing board. :o)

letsgetitdone's picture
Submitted by letsgetitdone on

Good diary. Nice job costing things out based on the Bush Administration's figure for the value of a life. Of course, the Administration won't worry about that since these "wasted dollars" are not Federal Dollars.

I developed an earlier estimate of lives that will be lost here. It's lower than your own, because it's likely that the bill will provide insurance to a portion of the 47 million currently lacking it and so may save some lives. But, in my view the bill is immoral because it leaves too many fatalities, bankruptcies, and foreclosures to occur because of lack of coverage. I think the bill needs to be killed and pressure to pass a better bill that is clearly on the path to enhanced Medicare for All needs to be increased.