Health Care Fix

Latest suggestions on how to help pay for Obama’s health care reform plan include a proposal to raise taxes on alcohol. In a recent posting fellow blogger Nate Silver over at FiveThirtyEight makes the case that a drunk driver tax, rather than an alcohol tax would be a fairer and more efficient way to go. Why? Silver explains that while alcohol consumption is associated with a wide array of undesirable outcomes such as increased highway fatalities, decreased productivity at work  and worsened health outcomes, these behaviors aren’t particularly strongly associated with drinking unto itself. Rather, they are associated with drinking to excess and/or engaging in stupid behaviors while doing so. Silver estimates that a drunk driver tax would produce at least as much revenue as the liquor tax, writing: “In 2006, there were 1.1 million arrests for drunk driving in the United States, not counting Florida which didn’t report its statistics. Fine each of those people $8,000, and you’d have almost about $9 billion more to pay for health care every year.† A quick look at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stats show that “under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medication† ranks third in the list of behaviors reported for drivers and motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashes in 2007. The top two behaviors are “failure to keep in proper lane or running off the road† and “driving too fast for conditions or in excess of posted speed limit†, while “inattentive (talking, eating)† ranks fourth. Which reminds us that alcohol isn’t the only vice contributing to increased highway fatalities and/or rising health care costs. What do you think is the most equitable way to pay for health care reform? Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on health insurance.

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