One aspect of the complex health care reform debate that is receiving more focus lately relates to "the cost curve." As we know, a driving factor in the need for health care reform is the continually rising costs of care. These increases impact everyone: individuals, families, providers, employers and government.
The way the cost curve lens is being applied to the current debate, and the varying proposals on the table, is whether reforms will "bend" the cost curve. In other words, will reform stop the ongoing escalation in costs and bend the curve downwards through lower costs. Right now, the Congressional Budget Office says many of the reform plans being discussed won't bend the curve, instead "the curve is being raised."
Bending the curve is a tough challenge. As we write here often, health reform is not easy otherwise legislators would have done it by now. Which is why the president and lawmakers get credit for taking on this issue; but they must do so in a manner that truly protects and benefits the middle-class as promised.
Some of the proposals for funding health care won't do anything for the cost curve. They're simply money-raisers; Band-aids for a big, complex problem. That category is certainly where we place the notion of discriminatory taxes on consumer products – including a potential tax on soft drinks, juice drinks, sports drinks, teas, vitamin waters, flavored waters and other non-alcoholic beverages.
A tax on soft drinks and juice drinks won't bend the health care cost curve. Just as disconcerting, a tax on these beverages won't bend the cost curve for the overall family budget either. It would simply extend the rising cost trend straight up for families. Families are paying more for everything right now and they’re not getting raises to meet those increased costs in these tough times.
Looking forward, as health care costs continue to rise in future years without a bend in the cost curve, lawmakers will be very tempted to keep reaching into the grocery cart to tax other foods and consumer products to pay for these growing costs. This is one reason why so many industries and consumer groups(including grocery stores, restaurants and food manufacturers) have joined the Americans Against Food Taxes Coalition. They fear the slippery slope once Congress starts reaching into the grocery cart for more money.
This is another example of where lawmakers need to be careful on this issue. A tax on soft drinks and juice drinks won't scratch the surface of helping to improve health care in America. But reaching into the grocery cart with new taxes will make a sizeable impact on the growing everyday costs of Americans - hard-working families who are already struggling through a recession.