Unions battle proposed health benefit tax


A major union leader, commenting on Congressional Budget Office claims that employers will pass along, in the form of raises, cost savings that result from a tax on workers' health benefits said today that, "They may also believe in the tooth fairy."

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees also said, "Unfortunately, even some progressive leaders, like my friend Sen. John Kerry, have been taken in by myths that favor the tax."

Sen. Kerry said, in an article in the Huffington Post earlier this week, that an excise tax on high cost health plans will help control health care costs without taxing workers.
"The facts simply don't support his conclusion," McEntee said today.

McEntee pointed to findings by the Joint Committee on Taxation that the vast majority of revenue collected from the tax will come from individual income taxes and joint filers and not by insurance companies. "Employers will respond to the tax by reducing benefits they offer employees," McEntee said, "so they can fit their premium charges under the tax threshold. To the extent insurance companies pay the tax, the tax will be directly passed through to employers in the form of higher premium charges."

If, when the new bill becomes law, a tax on workers' health benefits is included, it will be the first time in U.S. history that such benefits are taxed.

"For years, workers have given up wage increases in order to protect their health benefits," McEntee said. "Now, those workers and their families will lose the health benefits on which they rely."

Many of those who support the excise tax, including the Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orzag, support the idea that the tax will force companies to trim benefits and require workers to pick up more of the tab for them.

"That's a double whammy for workers," McEntee declared, adding, "It is certainly not the ‘change' our members expected when they knocked on doors and cast their ballots for President Obama and Vice president Biden.

The union leader said "the excise tax is not essential, or even relevant to health care reform. It is a tax policy, not a health care policy."

The CBO's scoring of the Senate bill actually supports McEntee's point.

CBO calculates that the Senate bill will decrease the federal budget deficit by $130 billion over the 2010-2019 period while the excise tax will raise $149 billion. The figures, tax opponents say, show that the excise tax is not a necessary component of health care reform, even as a funding mechanism. At most, they say, the tax is simply a method to raise revenue for deficit reduction.

The labor movement has been saying there are better ways to fund health care reform and to reduce the deficit.

"The House bill would do it by asking the wealthy to do their part through a small surcharge on families earning more than $1 million annually. It asks the richest Americans, and the insurance companies responsible for the skyrocketing costs, to pay their fair share."


Photo:  www.aflcio.org/.../voiceatwork/d10_photos_dc.cfm

Gerald McEntee addresses rally in Washington DC.

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  • Wonder why so many,as the PW reports news, conjecture,inaccurately what its position is on so many issues confronting working people?
    The PW openly states it is biased toward workers.
    If the PW had its druthers,we would have free,universal health care,today,for example.
    Simply having this position does not make fact.
    We have to have the whole united working people fighting for this to make fact.
    We have to organize this unity. Painstakingly putting the facts out,having the working-class act on them,training itself in action ,will bring this irresistable unity.
    PW has all the confidence in the world,peoples'.

    Posted by E.E.W.Clay, 01/11/2010 3:45pm (6 years ago)

  • "proportionately"

    Posted by E.E.W.Clay, 01/11/2010 3:29pm (6 years ago)

  • Allow workers being kicked to cry out and allow(compel) the insurance monopolies doing the kicking and profiteering to pay.
    While we soberly and coldly discuss these issues, millions suffer and perish,with no protection after those who came before them built this country and the insurance companies and the industries that they are based on.
    Gerald McEntee and the CBO are correct along with the working-class and the communists.
    The profits of the insurance monopolists bleed from the working peoples-their CEOs make so much money,if reinvested in working peoples struggles,we would tip the scales toward matching the lobby(bribery) money health care monopolists use to destroy working peoples's health while working people have no human right to health care.
    Let the monopolists who pollute the air,water,and soil,and afford working people near worthless "insurance"pay for these crimes against humanity and nature,crimes,stolen like the profits they misuse daily.
    The working-class pay taxes disporportionately as it is.
    We need to stop paying to be shafted.

    Posted by E.E.W.Clay, 01/11/2010 3:10pm (6 years ago)

  • This was featured in David Shove's very popular and informative "Progressive Calendar" in the Twin Cities.

    My question is why is the PW peddling the wrong line on health care reform?

    Everyone I talk to wants Canadian-style healthcare.

    The MNDFL is on record supporting single-payer universal healthcare.

    It seems to me the labor unions are reaping what they have sown as they helped to kill single-payer:

    Posted by Sherry, 01/11/2010 11:04am (6 years ago)

  • John Kerry is right. Gerald McEntee is wrong. It won't hurt workers with good health insurance policies to kick in a little from a tax on their benefits to get this off the ground.

    This is a progressive tax that should be supported by unions not opposed.

    This tax on healthcare benefits is part and parcel of this legislation.

    We should get behind President Obama and the Democrats and not interfere with their efforts to bring about progressive healthcare reform.

    We have a progressive president and we shouldn't try to second guess him when his political future is on the line. He is looking out for our interests.

    Posted by Darren, 01/10/2010 9:47pm (6 years ago)

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