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Letters to health-care Santa: Tax cookies, or at least soda

profcutler.jpgOver the course of this week, I'll be asking some health-care experts what they'd like Santa to add to the bill during conference committee and publishing their responses on the blog. This edition features David Cutler, the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics at Harvard. Cutler also served on the Council of Economic Advisers and the National Economic Council during the Clinton administration, and advised the Obama campaign. Currently, he's affiliated with the Center for American Progress and is a member of the Institute of Medicine.

In the season of parties and drinks, I would add a tax on sugar sweetened beverages. A tax of 3 cents per 12 ounces raises $50 billion, which we need to get more coverage. And it is a start on the obesity problem, which would lower health spending.

Earlier in this series, Diane Archer called for Congress to create national exchanges rather than state exchanges and Alain Enthoven offered some ideas for how to fix the exchanges.

By Ezra Klein  |  December 22, 2009; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Health Reform  
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Next: Last quarter not as grow-y as we thought


So is this your real game? Pass the bill and then raise taxes on anything you can?

Posted by: obrier2 | December 22, 2009 11:48 AM | Report abuse

What about artificially-sweetened beverages? I've heard of people going off diet soda losing weight and the appetite-enhancing aritifical sweeteners may be worse than the sugar in regular soda.

Posted by: cassander | December 22, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Artificial sweeteners, maybe, but surely he didn't really mean just "sugar-sweetened" and not "high-fructose corn syrup sweetened" which is way more common and arguably worse in its ripple effects.

Posted by: Clara3 | December 22, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

"Letters to Santa"???

Might as well send a letter to the north pole wishing for any substantive changes in this piece of legislation.

Nothing like taking a horrendous legislative process, that continually compromised to the right, time after time again, and wish at the last minute that you could back-fill it so as to hide its ugly warts.

I'd like to ask Santa for a pink pony.

Posted by: jc263field | December 22, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

Given that funding the bill is one of the unknowns to resolve in conference, this seems to be closer to a real proposal than the others.

I'd strongly agree that this is very high up on the list of things to add. It absolutely amazes me that we've got agreement to add new taxes to the medical device and pharma industries, but taxing sugar beverages was considered the no-no.

Posted by: wisewon | December 22, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

agree 1000% with David Cutler and wisewon.

I still remember early in the debate the Daily Show montage about the ads from the different industries like the beverage industry. The woman bringing in soda to her house and complaining about how that cost would kill her. Ya right.

Posted by: visionbrkr | December 22, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

"Sugar sweetened beverages" is a very vague term. What would be included and not included in the definition of "sugar sweetned" to arrive at your target revenue number? I think it is a fine concept, but is in need of further clarification.

Posted by: tbrown92282 | December 23, 2009 10:36 AM | Report abuse

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