Saturday, December 21, 2013

Meaningless Sentence of the Day

This NY Times story on the middle class's struggle with the new healthcare law is generally pretty good, but this sentence struck me as comically meaningless:
Experts consider health insurance unaffordable once it exceeds 10 percent of annual income.

What the heck does this mean?  The typical American spends more than a third of income on housing.  Does that make housing unaffordable?  Presumably not.  What makes 10 percent the magic threshold for health insurance but not for other categories of crucial spending?  Who are these experts, and what criterion do they use to determine what is affordable?

Probably what the sentence means is that people have become accustomed to spending less than 10 percent of income on health insurance and are unhappy when they have to spend more.  But if healthcare costs keep rising as a share of national income, as many economists believe they will, then we will have to adjust our perceptions of what is affordable.

Addendum: The Times story, particularly the graphic, suggests that the implicit marginal tax rate some people face under the Affordable Care Act subsidies can sometimes exceed 100 percent.  It is hard to believe that the law is so badly written as to have this feature, but that seems to be the implication.