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How ya feeling?

Kleenex_crisscross_2 It’s the heart of winter, and for most of North America that means cold temperatures. It also means more of us fight off colds.

A couple of weeks ago, that group included the hubby and me. He got sick first. We were careful not to share eating utensils, he self-quarantined himself in the guest room for a couple of days and we exchanged only air kisses.

Didn’t matter. A week later, I came down with the sniffles, too.

In its Science Times feature “Really?” back in November, the New York Times examined whether exposure to cold weather can cause colds. The clinical answers were mixed, but the newspaper suggested that since there is some evidence that being chilly can bring on a cold, it’s better to bundle up.

Does that mean I can write off the price of new cashmere sweater as a medical expense? Unfortunately, no. While it’s true there are many things besides just doctor office visits and medications you can deduct, the IRS polices this deduction pretty carefully. You must make sure the illness-related expenses are indeed medically necessary. This story offers some suggestions.

Meanwhile, Washington politicians continue to dabble in ways to tweak the nation’s health care system.

There is, of course the Medicare Part D debacle program that just got underway. Washington Post op-ed columnist Harold Meyerson nails the new plan (and its Creator-in-Chief) in this column. I so look forward to the day when I’m older, feeling more frail (physically, mentally and emotionally) and have to deal with all this government/insurance company collusion mumbo jumbo bureaucratic … stuff. 

Then there’s the advisory panel the president created to examine ways to modify our current tax system. One suggestion by the group: a cap on the tax-free amount of health insurance premiums. Now, however, it looks like that idea and other panel recommendations won’t get much attention for a while. The president has basically disavowed the group’s work, at least until after the 2006 elections.

We’ll get even more medical-related tax relief proposals in a couple of weeks when the president takes another stab at health care in his annual budget. According to the Washington Post, the document will contain larger deductions for insurance co-payments, deductibles and care that is not covered.

The budget plan, to be used as a basis for the upcoming State of the Union speech, also is expected to call for expanded health savings accounts, as well as propose ways we can more easily continue our company-provided medical insurance when we leave our jobs.

My advice? Don’t hold your breath on these measures. The costs for even one of the proposals will be huge, a concern for members on both sides of the aisle in this time of growing budget deficits. Daniel Shaviro examines the cost (and other) factors of health care in his blog Start Making Sense.

Plus, you could pass out, fall, hit your head and require a costly ER visit.


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