The American Hospital Association wants to trade guns for butter.
The national hospital group last week proposed, among other things, cutting back on nuclear bombs and taxing assault weapons to avoid the spending restrictions in Medicare and Medicaid that President Clinton says he needs to finance his healthcare reform package. Mr. Clinton has proposed paring the growth of Medicare by $124 billion over five years and cutting into Medicaid by $65 billion during that period.
In an attempt to counter that suggestion, the AHA reached into every nook and cranny of the federal budget to come up with a list of 29 financing options. The list, prepared in time for the AHA's annual meeting in Washington this week, includes such far-flung suggestions as scaling back nuclear weapons production to 4,000 warheads for $5.5 billion in five-year savings, imposing excise taxes on water pollutants for $7 billion over five years and eliminating funding for the Magnetic Levitation Prototype Development, a high-speed rail project, for $700 million in five-year savings.
The entire list-much of which was drawn from last year's Congressional Budget Office options for cutting the deficit-totals $398 billion, far more than would be needed to supplant the $189 billion in Medicare and Medicaid reductions. Richard Pollack, the AHA's executive vice president of federal relations, said the options present an array of choices for alternative healthcare reform financing mechanisms and aren't meant to be taken as a recommendation to implement all of them.
The organization developed the list to enhance the credibility of its argument against the Medicare and Medicaid reductions, which the AHA claims would do irreparable financial harm to hospitals and undermine their ability to implement healthcare reform. The list of alternatives will give AHA executives and members initiatives that they can suggest as substitutes for federal health cuts, as opposed to simply complaining about them with nothing fill the gap, executives said.
Other suggestions on the list for five-year savings include:
|Increase the 10% excise tax on handguns and assault weapons to 35%, raising $1 billion.
|Increase the federal excise tax on certain alcoholic beverages, raising $4.3 billion.
|Increase the 24 cents federal excise tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1, 25 cents above the Clinton administration's proposal, for $70 billion.
|Limit the tax deductibility of employer-paid health insurance to the cost of an average plan, $113 billion.
|Impose a "means test" for Medicare Part B premiums for upper-income beneficiaries, $18 billion.
|Impose a minimum tax on foreign-owned businesses operating in the United States, $1.6 billion.
|Increase burden sharing by allied nations hosting U.S. forces, $8.7 billion.
|Cancel the NASA space station program, $10.4 billion.