Premiums Don't Look Anything Like Taxes

Why would anyone wonder whether Clinton's proposed health-care plan would result in a tax or a premium? (Health-Care Costs: a Tax or a Premium?'' Dec. 7) A ``premium'' is a cost one chooses to pay to an insurance company. The company draws up a contract that includes language specifying foreseeable monetary returns to the policy holder.

A ``tax'' is imposed by a government, usually with no foreseeable specific results in monies returned. The individual citizen cannot choose whether to pay the annual tax to the IRS.

The United States government does not send a copy of the US budget to each citizen at tax time giving the details as to what is being spent and asking him if he wants to renew his contract on each of its parts. The president and Congress can and do change the services rendered. Only the body politic as a whole can put in an objection; we do not individually choose to change or break contracts for ``military benefits'' (the Army), or for ``research benefits'' (NASA), although some of us may debate about these things.

The president and Congress are playing the ``Social Security'' word game once more by changing the rules for rates of return and by suggesting that these mandatory ``contributions'' are not what they are, namely taxes. Charlotte A. Wagner, Houston

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