Health Reform that Costs More in the Long Run? Why Taxing Health Benefits Isn’t a Real Option

By Ken Allen and Tom Chamberlain of Portland, Oregon. Ken is the executive director of Oregon AFSCME and Tom is the president of the Oregon AFL-CIO.

It’s hard to open the paper without reading a story about health care reform – why we need it, what it should look like, how we should pay for it…

One issue that we thought was laid to rest with the election of President Obama seems to be back on the table. During the campaign Senator John McCain suggested that health benefits should be taxed. He proposed considering health benefits that are paid for by your employer “income.” President Obama opposed this, and middle class Americans worked hard to make sure that we didn’t end up with our hard-earned benefits on the table for taxing.

Why shouldn’t health benefits be taxed?

Companies offer workers health benefits to supplement pay, to attract the best employees, and to ensure that workers are able to stay healthy so that they can continue to be productive at work.

Taxing health benefits discourages employers from offering benefits to their employees, and in the current system it would unfairly discriminate against small businesses, and people in workplaces with more women and older workers. Health insurance for older people and for women tends to be higher than insurance for young men. These workers will pay more in taxes. Similarly, small businesses that can’t get large-pool rates on their health insurance usually pay more per person than large corporations. Oregon’s economy is built on small businesses. If you work for a small business you will pay more than your neighbor who works at a large company.

Even worse, this tax targets middle-class Americans. The wealthy can lower their tax burden through credits and deductions. The poor pay minimal taxes. But middle-income Americans who are already struggling to pay their health care costs will get slapped with the full cost of a health insurance tax.

Health coverage through the workplace, which over 60% of Americans under 65 take advantage of, evolved in part because changes to the tax code made these benefits tax-free. Removing this incentive will inevitably lead to fewer companies covering health care costs, and throw more Americans into the expensive individual market for health insurance, or worse leave them without insurance at all.

Why is this plan resurfacing?

Senator Wyden’s S. 391 will take a big step toward reforming our health care system by supporting public health care options at the state level, establishing standard guidelines for health coverage, and encouraging the establishment of school-based health centers, Chronic Care Education Centers and other centers that promote the maintenance of health. But buried within the reform, Senator Wyden’s bill calls for taxation of all employer-covered health care benefits. And, Senator Wyden is working hard to have similar language put in a larger health reform bill that is being drafted in Washington, D.C., now.

Health care funding must be reformed to help more Americans gain health care coverage. The current funding system clearly doesn’t work. But taxing health care benefits is a big step backwards. It discourages companies from offering health care, punishes people for their age and gender, and makes health care less affordable for the 60% of Americans 65 or younger who have health insurance through their job and will have to pay taxes on those benefits.

Senator Wyden has been a champion of health care reform, and his work to reform the system and to encourage public options for health care coverage could change the face of our health care system, expand coverage, and make health more affordable for all Americans. But only if our Senior Senator stops lobbying for a health care benefits tax.

Let’s get health care consumers and purchasers together with legislators to come up with a real fix to fund health care – something that encourages coverage, lowers costs, and doesn’t punish middle class Americans.

Comments

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    From what I've read of Wyden's S391, the vision is that everyone would be covered by private insurance.

    "Supporting public options at the state level", as the authors of this piece have mentioned, under S391 means, yes, increased federal support for people who need Medicaid but doing away with the Medicaid program itself- what it says is that current Medicaid-users must enter a state pool which will then purchase private insurance (albeit with assistance of increased federal funding).

    So, I'd ask Wyden, why do we need the public support to private insurance?

    As for taxation of bennies, seems Wyden may be shooting himself and the insurance industry in the foot because, as the piece states, it will lead to lessening the bennies provided, therefore turning more people to demand a universal public option? Is Wyden a stealth single-payer advocate? (I don't think so- I think he's merely written a confused bill and is waiting for instructtions from insurance industry as to what he should do next).

    Is Wyden anywhere near Max Baucus in terms of contributions from insurance & Big Pharma? I don't know, but I wouldn't doubt it.

  • Garage Wine (unverified)
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    I've never understood the economics behind, "Let's tax it to make it more affordable."

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    I could not agree with Ken and Tom more (and that is pretty rare for me :->)!

    The outrageous thing here is that self employed folks get no break at all on health insurance costs.

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    My friends, Ken and Tom, are relying on some false assumptions and misunderstandings of the Wyden-Bennett “Healthy Americans Act.” You can’t simply throw the only bipartisan, universal, cost-neutral health reform proposal under the bus by evoking campaign year attacks against John McCain.

    Put simply: by converting the current tax exclusion for employer provided health benefits into a tax deduction – the only proposal that is on the table – we can stop the wasting our taxpayer dollars on spa benefits for the wealthy and still protect the health benefits of the average middle class family from any taxation. Let me say it again – Not One Dime of that family’s health benefits will be subject to tax. In fact, with the savings we make from the conversion, we can give the average middle class family a tax cut of hundreds of dollars per year.

    At the same time, converting to a tax deduction will create an equal playing field between small and large businesses and even independent workers. No longer will affordable, high quality health benefits only be available to big corporations – small businesses and the self-employed will finally have the same access to coverage as everyone else. Leaving that corporate job to create the next great Oregon start-up will no longer mean risking the health of you and your family.

    “Taxing health benefits discourages employers from offering benefits to their employees, and in the current system it would unfairly discriminate against small businesses, and people in workplaces with more women and older workers.” The authors’ argument is based on a false premise: quoting the authors, “in the current system…” No one is suggesting converting the current tax exclusion to a tax deduction “in the current system.” The HAA creates an entirely new system where the coverage problems of small business, women and older workers are not only addressed, but cured, in a far more comprehensive way than in any of the competing proposals. This is why a progressive, small business owner from Portland was instrumental in the development of HAA and was standing with Ron when he introduced his bill.

    “Even worse, this tax targets middle-class Americans. The wealthy can lower their tax burden through credits and deductions. The poor pay minimal taxes. But middle-income Americans who are already struggling to pay their health care costs will get slapped with the full cost of a health insurance tax.”

    Even worse – the current tax exclusion for employer-provided health benefits bestows the majority of its benefits to the rich, using the tax dollars of middle class Americans to subsidize spa benefits for the most well off. The Wyden plan gives middle class Americans a tax cut while also shielding their health benefits from taxation with a combination of a new Health Care Standard Deduction and a generous subsidy. He accomplishes this by ending the unfair and regressive tax exclusion that gives the most benefits to those who have the best health care, and nothing to the folks who need it.

    “Health coverage through the workplace, which over 60% of Americans under 65 take advantage of, evolved in part because changes to the tax code made these benefits tax-free. Removing this incentive will inevitably lead to fewer companies covering health care costs, and throw more Americans into the expensive individual market for health insurance, or worse leave them without insurance at all.”

    Every 1% increase in unemployment results in another One-Million Americans losing their employer-provided health benefits. The number of Americans receiving employer-provided coverage is declining year after year as our employers are forced to compete with foreign firms who don’t pay for their employees’ health care. By keeping the burden on American employers we are promoting the shipping of jobs overseas and reducing the competitiveness of our manufacturers in the global marketplace.

    We welcome the great work and input of Ken, Tom, and other champions of working people as we continue to tackle the difficult challenges ahead in enacting comprehensive health reform. We would not be where we are today – at the precipice of achieving real reform – if not for the unceasing work and dedication of the American labor movement. With continuing discussion and work, I look forward to singing from the same hymnal with Tom, Ken and others on the President’s eventual health proposal.

    [Editor's note: Josh Kardon is Senator Wyden's chief of staff.]

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has released a study named Healthcare Reform in the United States

    Joe Conason wrote about the OECD report in Salon:

    Nations with comparable standards of living like France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, Canada, Norway, and Japan spend roughly between half and two-thirds per capita what we spend annually. They cover everyone and their results are measurably better. And the supposed downsides of universal coverage, such as lack of access to sophisticated medical technologies, are belied in many of these countries. For instance Japan has lower per capita health expenditures than the United States (and universal coverage,) but its citizens have greater access to MRI machines, CT scanners and kidney dialysis equipment than Americans do.

    So why do well-meaning elected officials such as Ron Wyden and Barack Obama support Byzantine plans to repair our failing healthcare system when the way out of the mess is clear to anyone willing to take a dispassionate look? Because they want healthcare reform that will limit opposition from the politically powerful insurance and healthcare industries.

    Consensus building is often a wise political exercise. In this case, however, it is folly. The present US health insurance system is a huge parasite sucking life from our people and our economy. It is not likely that this parasite will compromise on a plan that cuts off its food supply. The beast must be destroyed if the American people are to be healthy.

  • Carl (unverified)
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    Josh,

    You make an interesting assertion: "the current tax exclusion for employer-provided health benefits bestows the majority of its benefits to the rich, using the tax dollars of middle class Americans to subsidize spa benefits for the most well off."

    Can you provide a specific example in evidence of spa benefits subsidized by taxpayer moneys?

  • (Show?)

    I with Josh Kardon and Senator Wyden on this. There is nothing sacred to me about the exclusion of employment related health benefits from taxation. It is currently not fair to the self-employed or unemployed. But we should not give it up without moving to something better. And better should be health care benefits that are not linked to employment or to a specific employer.

    We will not get the health care reform we need if each special interest group clings to some specific part of the current health care system they like irregardless of the other changes proposed. So, Ken and Tom, please be flexible. Give on this point if the overall health care reform package is a good one.

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    Good question, Carl.

    Because executive health plans, like other health plans, are confidential, it is impossible to cite specific examples. However,

    My favorite example what is allowable under the current tax code involves the claim of the construction of a swimming pool as an allowable medical health expense deduction. The test for an allowable medical expense is the same as that for what a high end health plan can cover. In this case, Ferris v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 582 F.2d 1112 (7th Cir. 1978), the court held that the addition of a swimming pool was an allowable deduction, but that the architectural expenses for integrating the pool with the surrounding estate was not allowable.

    The IRS allows coverage for “diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or for the purpose of affecting any structure or function of the body.” As Oregonians can imagine, this sort of incredibly broad definition creates loopholes your average executive benefits managers can drive a truck through. Adding a swimming pool to a house, buying an eliptical trainer, full body scans and velour-robed executive physicals at Johns Hopkins, a weekly massage, a nose job (for the rash of deviated septums that has accompanied the increasing use of plastic surgery) – anything a doctor can be convinced to recommend can be covered by a rich insurance package. But for those folks who can afford high-end health insurance, the sky’s the limit – and 35 cents of every dollar is subsidized by our tax dollars.

  • Jonathan Link (unverified)
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    Call a Canadian Want to know what universal single-payer health care is really like? Do people die on gurneys waiting for operations? Would you pay through the nose in taxes? Is it really worry free?

    Instead of listening to "experts" from the health insurance industry, lobbyists, the government, or even Michael Moore, why not call an average Canadian and find out for yourself?

    Substitute your area code for a Canadian one listed below and call your own phone number. Introduce yourself and ask the person at the end of the line what they think about their health care system. Ask about their own experience. The service, the price, the choice, whatever.

    Then make up your mind if single-payer universal health care is a good idea for the USA.

    Canadian Area Codes: 709 Atlantic Time plus a half hour

    506 and 902 Atlantic Time

    819, 418, 581, 450, 613, 514, 438, 343, 416, 647, 905, 289, 705, 519, 226, 807 Eastern Time

    204, 306 Central Time

    867, 780, 587, 403, 587 Mountain Time

    250, 778, 604 Pacific Time

  • (Show?)

    My favorite example what is allowable under the current tax code involves the claim of the construction of a swimming pool as an allowable medical health expense deduction.

    Gee, and I thought the addition of massage coverage under my Kaiser health plan was pushing the envelope.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Josh, I'll bet you are actually a pretty nice guy. When you start off trying to create a class war around this subject you sound like, to use Carla's lexicon, an asshat. I'll be willing to bet that you really aren't that way.

    Expense outlyers happen all of the time in tax deductibility. It isn't new or even only in healthcare. I know of a physician who had a fellow practitioner write a "prescription" for a hot tub back in the early 80's for his hot tub. but then I also am aware of several companies owned by families that have provisions for private health clubs written into their compensation/benefits plans; all legal under existing US tac code. The problem isn't the tax code, its politicians who try to "fix" a problem by only addressing one portion at a time. Wyden's Plan has the same problem with taxing emplyer provided health benefits.

    Currently, a mid level plan protecting a family based on employment costs about $12k/yr. Of that, most employees then pay out about $350 - $425/month or close to $4k/yr. If their employer has a 125C plan, they get to pay those funds out of payroll deduction pre-tax. Further deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket maximums are also paid out of flexible spending Accounts in a pre-tax manner. Make the employer paid portion taxable and you take away the leverage of employer provided group health plans and the existing benefit structure collapses.

    Defending Wyden's tax proposal on all employer provided health plans based on allegedly rich, executive health plans is a non-starter. If you want to talk about real solutions for real people give me a ring. I've been involved in developing and running company sponsored benefits plans for over 25 years. I've worked in Fortune 500 companies as well as small local companies. I also have a son who was born with a chronic health condition that requires expensive ongoing health care costs. I know and understand all sides of the issue. If you're interested in a true dialogue concerning how we can approach fixing a broken system without demagogery (sp? word?) I eagerly await your e-mail.

  • Mary Winzig (unverified)
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    Maybe I’m misunderstanding something. I agree with Josh – anyone who can afford to put in a deluxe swimming pool shouldn’t get a tax credit for that. I don’t think Tom and Ken were talking about tax credits for health expenditures, though.

    The way I read their article they’re just saying that healthcare benefits, which are currently not taxed as income (because they’re not income, they’re an extra benefit either along with or, more often instead of, higher wages), should continue to be treated that way, whereas Senator Wyden’s plan would require you and I to pay taxes on any money our employer spent on our health benefits as if it were part of our paycheck (which it’s not).

    During the last election, I was involved in my union’s political program. My fellow members have a wide range of political views, but a major factor in their voting decisions was taxing of health benefits. They overwhelmingly supported candidates who vowed not to tax their healthcare.

    I can see why the very rich would get more benefits from a credit for health expenditures, but don’t you and I both benefit from having good quality healthcare, provided at least in part by our employer, that we don’t have to pay taxes on? I agree with Tom and Ken on this one – let’s make it easier, not harder, for middle class Oregonians to get health care coverage!

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    Senator Wyden’s plan would require you and I to pay taxes on any money our employer spent on our health benefits

    No, under Senator Wyden's plan, your employer would no longer provide you health care. Senator Wyden's plan abolishes employer-based health care.

    Why? By ending employer-based health care, and replacing it with a system that ensures that you can get affordable, comprehensive, high-quality health care that can never be taken away (and for which, btw, everyone pays the same price) -- you ensure that people can go back to school, change jobs, start a business, become stay-at-home parents, get laid off, run off and join the circus, whatever the hell they want, without fear of losing their health care.

    Here's a two-minute video from Senator Wyden that explains how that would work. If funny videos aren't your thing, there's also a one-page explanation on his website.

    I agree with Tom and Ken on this one – let’s make it easier, not harder, for middle class Oregonians to get health care coverage!

    I agree with them as well. And, like Josh, I'm quite confident that when we're actually talking about an actual comprehensive health care reform proposal, we'll all be on the same side. (Against jerks like Frank Luntz and his ilk.)

    Full disclosure: My firm built the websites for both Senator Wyden and the Oregon AFL-CIO. I speak only for myself.

  • (Show?)

    Responding to Kurt:

    Kurt, I will note that corporate and other benefits managers like yourself are hardly dispassionate and objective about ending the current employer-based system. I hope we can disagree without resorting to name-calling, but I've been called worse than "asshat," I can assure you. Now in response,

    The HAA doesn’t tax any of the benefits outlined in your “mid-level plan.” In fact, the independent Lewin Group found that the HAA saved families who have current coverage and average of $300 and families with incomes up to $150,000 would come out ahead. The combination of tax deductions and subsidies puts them in a better position than under the current system. As far as the “benefit structure collapsing” – I guess that’s only a concern to those whose livelihood depends upon preserving the current benefits system – the family in question will profit from the share no longer taken up by that middle-man.

    The outlier defense seems to always be the last refuge of the old guard in this debate. When the Insurance companies are accused of calling legitimate treatments experimental or having financial incentives to deny coverage they cry that it’s only a few outliers who do it. So when a benefits manager admits to “several” smaller companies who use the ridiculously loose tax rules to use our tax dollars to pay for non-health benefits, but they’re just outliers – excuse me if I look askance. Take that several and multiply it across the tens of thousands of benefits managers with their small and medium sized companies and professional firms across the nation and you have the thin edge of the wedge driving up health costs for the rest of us.

  • marv (unverified)
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    Remember? Change that we can believe in. Chuckle. Yes, sound bites are out there on nearly any topic that you can name during which BO sounds like the person that you should vote for. Tsk, Tsk. On health care he seems to have supported single payer. Seventy percent of the public does. Sixty percent of the AMA . But then the Senator from Montana who chairs the committee does not even have a single payer advocate at the table. He has them arrested. Who received more from the insurance industry than Bachus? (sp) No one.

    Pick a topic. Any topic. BO is just Bush with slightly better window dressing.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Here are some bits from Stand Tall for America, the site touting the plan Senator Wyden supports.

    Every time an individual interacts with state, local and federal government—registering their car, enrolling their children in school, applying for a driver’s license or paying their taxes—they can be required to verify their enrollment in a private health insurance plan. We will in turn ensure that everyone can afford health care.

    Did I mention Byzantine? How about Kafkaesque? What happens when a change of economic fortune makes one unable to pay one's premium for mandated insurance, and need for government subsidy has not yet been established? No license or registration? No school? Tax delinquency, to boot? Under single-payer, no such government intrusion would be necessary because everyone would have health insurance.

    The Healthy Americans Act relies on competition to drive down costs and promote quality. No longer grouping individuals according to their employees, the plan expands the pool of health care consumers — allowing insurance companies to remain profitable while driving down prices.

    And just how would insurance companies drive down prices? By denying care? By limiting access? By paying their employees minimum wage? Single-payer drives down costs by eliminating insurance companies and their profits. We already know that Medicare administration is more efficient [read: lower cost] than any insurance company.

    Single-payer is also a whole hell of a lot simpler.

  • (Show?)

    In response to Mary:

    Yes, I think you are misunderstanding something, but I doubt it's your fault. Ask yourself, why are we being asked the question in that way, using those precise words?

    The deduction for health care benefits has become, over time, a deduction for high end health care expenditures, which are paid for through executive benefits plans subsidized with tax dollars. If you simply ask a person whether they want their health benefits taxed, of course they say "hell no," – those are fighting words. But that IS NOT what the Wyden plan does – it gets rid of the exclusion for the wealthy while creating a deduction that covers all the benefits received by middle-class Americans.

    So if the question is: do you want your health benefits taxed, then your union brothers and I agree, the answer is "no." But if the question is: do we want to stop subsidizing Cadillac benefits with tax dollars that could be used to guarantee high-quality, portable coverage that you cannot lose, even if your employer goes bankrupt or moves your job elsewhere, then most folks respond with a pretty enthusiastic "yes."

  • (Show?)

    One last response to Tom Civiletti before I run to a meeting and excuse myself from a computer:

    Tom, Ron's bill would provide a premium subsidy to people earning up 400% above the poverty level. I'm not familiar with the bill's mechanism to quickly change enrollment status under HAA, and our health team has escaped my phone calls for the night, but I trust that if we haven't done already done a good job with the logistics, that can be fixed. I think you do Kafka a disservice by terming that alleged problem "Kafkaesque."

    The HAA is the ONLY proposal that has been scored and analyzed by independent, respected health firms and the CBO as both cost-neutral and effective at slowing the rate of health cost growth. Every person would be guaranteed the same coverage as their Member of Congress, so cost savings are rather unlikely to be achieved via denying access.

    Thank you all for letting me participate in the discussion. We look forward to working with all of you in the very near future on a unified, universal health reform bill.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Josh,

    Kafkaesque is having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality, as in being required to verify enrollment in a private health insurance plan every time an individual interacts with state, local and federal government.

    As to qualifying for subsidy, would that be based on last year's tax return or this month's pay stubs? Some folks have incomes that change rapidly and often. It's bad enough to lack healthcare. This system would keep people from driving or sending their kids to school as well, it seems.

    Portability, universal coverage, and cost containment are all desirable ends. Why construct a Rube Goldberg contraption [that's "performing a very simple task in a very complex fashion"] that will preserve much of the inefficiency of the present system when single-payer is straight-forward, fair, and efficient?

  • Iris (unverified)
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    "So why do well-meaning elected officials such as Ron Wyden and Barack Obama.." The problem with folks like Obama and Wyden is that they are not well-meaning. They are shamelessly focused on re-paying special interests. The fact that most Americans, and a vast majority of Health care professionals want Single Payer health Care is the least of their concern.

    The single-payer solution is the one solution that reduces costs and increases savings, covers every American, provides patient choice, and allows doctors to make the best medical decisions. It would also provide a huge stimulus to the economy by creating millions of jobs.

    Single Payer makes sense: no huge profits for denying care.Our one party government will keep it from happening.

    I am glad I did not vote for either Obama or Wyden!

  • rw (unverified)
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    Josh: Kafka would approve.

  • momordica (unverified)
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    Control your Health youself and stay happy.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Josh, I welcome your insight and offer mine. You made some assumptions based on my comments above. I AM NOT a corporate benefits manager. I have spent over 25 years in mostly generalist roles advocating and working for the best available plans for my employees and their families within the tedious framework of ERISA. It has been alternatingly rewarding and frustrating.

    I am not part of the "executive elite, but rather a member of the middle class. still, a significant amount of our income goes to health care insurance and related expenses.

    I will learn more about Wyden's plan with your help and am serious about offering my assistance from the southern end of the state if you want it.

  • Gary (unverified)
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    The first part of your headline--"Health Reform That Costs More in the Long Run"--hits the nail on the head, but then you confuse yourself and the entire issue by equating costing more with taxing health benefits. Reform will cost more for two reasons: one is that the government will run it (think $1,000 toilets for the army, etc.), and two is that it will insure everyone, at least theoreticaly.

    Except for severe rationing so that the life-expectancy in the U.S. falls to Depression-era levels (62 or so), there's no way a bunch of idiotic bureaucrats and corrupt politicians can squeeze enough money out of the health delivery system to make it cost less, much less make it actually affordable. Therefore, they will have to tax, tax, and tax some more, and health benefits are just a part of workers' salaries that has been shifted to pay for health care, thus quite taxable. Taxing health benefits won't discourage employers, as you say, but it will discourage workers who for the first time might, might, might just realize that there's no such thing as "free" health care, whether their employers or the government is paying for it.

    Oh, and watch for those costly individual mandates, all of you who delude yourselves into thinking government can take over health care and suddenly make it free by taxing the rich people on Wall Street or some such nonsense. Everyone is really out to lunch on this issue. The only reason it's on the table is to secure a permanent voting majority for the Democrats. Once that's done, the rationing, treatment and medicine denials, high premiums and co-pays will rear their ugly heads. But I'm not sure whom the Democrats think they're going to be able to blame that eventuality on--it will have been all of their own making. I'm sure they have a straw man or two all lined up, just as they do every election when they spread the fear that Republicans will end Social Security and abortion on demand.

  • (Show?)

    Kurt - thanks for the offer. Please contact either Molly or Traci in our Medford office and they will get you started with info on HAA. They will also get your contact info for our health team. There is a lot of distance to cover between where we are in the debate today and where we need to be to make this work better, so I'm not going to turn down a good resource for information.

  • Stephen Amy (unverified)
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    Note how the Wyden supporters on this blog are not interacting at all with the single-payer proponents. Shades of the Senate Budget Committee hearing of a few days ago (btw, Ron Wyden is on that committee).

    Big-time kudos to radio host Ed Shultz for rocking the mainstream Dem boat and really advocating for what the people and the medical professionals want (single payer).

  • (Show?)

    Josh states that while employees’ gross incomes will increase, “The combination of tax deductions and subsidies puts them in a better position than under the current system." Does anyone know how this will be treated under state law?

    Let's say an employee will receive an additional $12,000 in salary that his employer had previously paid as the annual premium for his/her family medical coverage. For argument's sake, let's also assume (a) that the employee will be able to obtain comparable coverage in the private market, and (b) that deductions do in fact work as Josh says to offset increased Federal tax liabilities.

    What about the additional Oregon income tax liability? Does Wyden's plan also assume states will all follow suit with the Federal deductions? And how will the Wyden plan apply to benefits for same sex domestic partners who may currently receive employer sponsored benefits, but whose relationships are not recognized under Federal tax law?

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Thanks Josh, I sent an e-mail to your website, but will contact the local Medford office Monday morning.

  • Chris #12 (unverified)
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    Ugh...listening to these politicians and their lackeys talk about health care "reform" is something I wouldn't advise, it can't be good for your health.

    A few weeks ago, Earl Blumenauer, in his typically arrogant, smarmy way, lectured a room full of his constitiuents on how everyone loves their current health care plan, and that single-payer wasn't viable, etc. It got a little ugly, as the audience showed their disgust. If 66% of the general public supports single payer, what do you think it is in Blumenauer's district? I'd guess somewhere in the high 70's or 80's. Any chance Blumenauer will consider how his constituents feel on the issue? It seems pretty unlikely, as he consistently fails to represent us on so many issues. I hope that some day soon, a true progressive with some name recognition will step up and challenge this guy.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Thank god for Dan and his ability to tease out the right questions. I am not versed enough/experienced in teh right arenas enough to be able to flesh out WHY I have niggling anxieties and more-than-sneaking suspcions towards nearly all plans and concepts thus far under discussion.

    I have a HEALTHY disrespect for all this half-assed, privatizing, leave it to the worker bee mentality around the demonic complexities of the insurance industry wolves and the employment tax labyrinth of doom. I had to call my damned accountant friend to help me figure out where the hell my extra shekels were going in the maze of deductions and reroutes so as to squeeze just enough extra thru on each check to satisfy a prospective landlord's rubric of what is acceptable burden:salary ratio.

    Ask any retiree how good it gets - Medicare's latest "products" being bloody heartache to parse... this concept of shifting all responsibility of acquisition of health care in an opaque system is in some ways a nasty parallel to the efforts underway to throw retirement funds into the hands of the needful to invest in the now-clearly-felonious cesspool which is the financial industry.

    Think about it.

  • rw (unverified)
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    Correction: I meant payroll taxes, not employment tax. Horrible mangle to figure out. Yech.

  • Jake Leander (unverified)
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    Gary,

    Your anti-government attitude leads you to wrong conclusions on healthcare. The most efficient healthcare delivery, in the U.S. and around the world is administered by government. It does not take much research to verify this, if you have any taste for research. If you would rather hold onto your mistaken belief based on ignorance, so be it.

  • Fredo (unverified)
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    Does HAA include a public option plan?

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