Home > Uncategorized > Debating Real Value of Health Benefits in Poverty Calculations – NYTimes.com

Debating Real Value of Health Benefits in Poverty Calculations – NYTimes.com

As a nation, we devote almost one-sixth of our spending to health care, twice the share of 30 years ago. Medical bills for the elderly are climbing, threatening to blow up the budget in a few decades. Politicians from both parties are consumed by how to pay for it all. Yet we cannot quite agree on how valuable government health care benefits are to Americans.

In July, the Congressional Budget Office — the nonpartisan arbiter of the costs and consequences of government spending — decided that we had not been valuing these benefits enough. In a report on how income and taxes are distributed across the population, it decided, for the first time, to value health benefits provided by the government at every penny they cost.

The decision stoked a long-simmering debate about how much health care is really worth to poor families who may not have enough to eat. The reclassification of health benefits added $4,600 a year to households in the bottom fifth of income. It shrank the nation’s yawning income gap and muted the increase of inequality over the last three decades. And it changed the picture of what the government does for Americans.

The reasoning behind the budget office’s action seems to make lots of sense: the government spends almost $8,000 on the average Medicaid beneficiary and more than $12,000 for each person on Medicare. Why shouldn’t that count as income? Without it, the recipients could not afford an essential, lifesaving service. Moreover, the budget office considers Social Security benefits as income. And that’s the way it treats the health insurance provided by employers to their workers.

via Debating Real Value of Health Benefits in Poverty Calculations – NYTimes.com.

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