Health Care Summit Will Probably Avoid Tax Talk

February 25, 2010

Three health care experts summarize the opposition to President Obama’s plan and the best alternative in today’s Wall Street Journal. They conclude:

Despite the claims of some partisans to the contrary, the president’s plan is failing because it does not speak to the concerns of the majority of Americans. Instead of addressing the high and rising costs of care, it proposes mandates, invasive regulation, and unaffordable new entitlements. This will not bring health-care costs down-it will only make this problem worse.

Even these conservative experts spend little time on taxes, and neither do opposing liberal commentators (who sound a little panicky about the rumored White House Plan B, an appealingly incremental bill that would replace the massive overhaul if it fails again). President Obama and even Republican leaders will probably spend little of their TV summit time talking about the complex new taxes that the Obama plan includes. Howard Gleckman has a good post in the Christian Science Monitor. In short, they are:

  • Hiking the Medicare payroll tax from 2.9% to 3.8% for single persons earning over $200,000 and couples earning over $250,000. For the first time, that taxed income won’t just include wages but also rents, annuities, royalties, capital gains, interest and dividends.
  • Imposing a tax on Cadillac health care plans. If a policy worth more than $10,200 were sold to an individual, a 40% tax would be due on every dollar over that amount. The tax threshold for family policies would be $27,500. To help congressmen vote for this tax, the president proposes that it not take effect until 2018 and indexes it for inflation plus one percent.
  • a fee on branded prescription drug pharmaceutical companies in proportion to their federal sales
  • an excise tax on medical devices
  • an annual fee on health insurance companies
  • an excise tax on indoor tanning services.
  • Individuals under Obama’s plan would be required to purchase coverage or face a fine of up to $695 or 2.5 percent of income starting in 2016, whichever is greater. Many would call this a fee instead of a tax.

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