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Wednesday Links — March 16, 2010

Links ImageWe’ll all just agree to pretend last weeks Wednesday had some links in it, okay? Haven’t been reading as much this week so I thought I’d go with fewer links and more discussion:

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A Modest Health Care Proposal

TeaParty

Photo by: nmfbihop

The American health care debate has gone completely off the rails.  The Right, ostensibly in defense of small government, is acting as if we have an option to not address this issue.  Meanwhile the Left is unable to present a coherent vision.  Even worse disinformation is flying from all directions and it’s difficult to have an informed opinion.  It could easily make a person tune out this conversation.

Why You Should Care About the Health Care Debate

One of the biggest reasons that you should care is that unless you’re on Medicare, you’re already footing the bill of socialized medicine.  Medicare is socialized medicine and right now about 27% of the population is on some form of government health care.[1] If you’re not one one of these programs, every dollar of over-consumed or overpriced affects you personally.  However, the situation becomes much more untenable in the near future.  By 2030 it’s estimated that twice as many people, 80 million, will be on Medicare and in the meantime the population will not have grown nearly be nearly as much, bringing the percentage of people on Medicare to 22%, without any other government programs considered.[2] Then you consider how many people are being added to Medicaid and other government programs due to the economic downturn and you can see the problem growing.  Unless you’re for abolishing Medicare, and that’s not a very popular view, you probably need a solution to the demographic bomb that’s headed our way.

I’ve already covered that we have high costs and outcomes that don’t justify the expense in America.  Almost any method to cover people’s medical bills is going to have a component of “socialism.”  Quite simply, those who are older or have chronic illnesses are terribly expensive to insure.  We know these people are going to have health problems.  Insurance at that point isn’t really providing insurance but simply giving them money for their health care.  If you want people who are older or have chronic illnesses to be able to get healthcare if they aren’t rich, others are going to have to pay for it.

If you’re healthy right now, you should care about healthcare because you’re subsidizing those who aren’t.  If you’re not healthy you probably already do care about healthcare reform.

A Modest Proposal

I thought I’d put out there what I consider to be a reasonable proposal and see what my readers think.  If I were going to address the situation in this country here would be my plan: (more…)

  1. As Private Insurance Declines, Medicare and Medicaid Pick Up the Slack – WSJ.com []
  2. Medicare Beneficiary Demographics []
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Investing Step #8: Health Savings Accounts

medicine

Photo by: KB35

This post is step 8 in our Investing Template.

The Health Savings Account is becoming a more popular option recently.  It is a great opportunity to save money on your medical insurance.  Despite that, it is still an under-used option. 

Health Savings Accounts allow you to contribute money to an account whose funds are designated specifically for health uses.  While many people might not immediately see the value in this, it represents an option in which you can almost immediately recoup a large percentage in savings.  If you are in a 33% tax bracket, then every expense you make using this account is essentially at a 50% discount. 
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Investing Step #4: Tax-Advantaged Accounts

This post is step 4 in our Investing Template.

Why pay taxes?  A lot of people claim they wouldn’t if they didn’t have to. However many of us are voluntarily paying taxes on money we could be pocketing tax-free with tax-advantaged accounts.  These are investment accounts where your taxes are either paid when you take the money out, or sometimes not at all.  Many people are familiar with retirement accounts like 401(k)s or IRAs, but there are other options that are often overlooked entirely.  Many times, if you know you’re going to have an expense in the near future, you can pay for that expense tax-free.  This many not seem like a big deal to you, but let’s do some simple math.

If I have a $100 expense this year and I’m in the 33% tax bracket, I have to earn $150 to pay for this expense if I have to pay taxes on the income.  If, on the other hand, I don’t have to pay taxes, I only have to spend $100.  This means that if I “invest” that money in tax-advantaged accounts that allow me the option to put away a certain amount pre-tax, I’ve immediately made 50% on that money.  A 50% guaranteed return is unheard of anywhere else, yet many of us overlook opportunities to achieve these same returns daily.  We’ll look at 4 broad categories of accounts that allow you to either defer, or completely avoid taxation on your income.

Tax-Deferred Accounts

  • Retirement Accounts
  • College Tuition Accounts
  • Home Investment Accounts
  • Health Savings Accounts

While each of these programs have nuances, they are closely related to your investing timeline.  Health Spending Accounts are for near-immediate expenses, home accounts are usually a fairly short timeline, college programs can be quite a while in the future, and retirment accounts are often the furthest off.   This collection of accounts can save you a great deal of money if used properly, so we’ll look at them individually over the coming days.