Oct 7, 2009

House Members Push Back on Health CareTax for Working Families

Finally, Congress shows a little backbone. Apparently, 156 House members (a majority, if you're keeping track) have written a letter asking Speaker Pelosi to drop any notion of taxing so-called "Cadillac plans," or higher-cost health insurance. The letter rightfully points out that:
Such a tax would impact regions with high health care costs in the short-term, and, in the long-term, inevitably extend to more and more middle-income Americans across the country.
It also points out the biggest problem for union members with this tax--how grossly unfair it would be. UFCW members and other union members across the country have spent countless hours at the bargaining table trying to secure affordable, quality health care for themselves and their families. And as the costs of health care have skyrocketed, union members have been forced to sacrifice things like wage raises, or pension benefits, in order to keep health care affordable for all--not just for union members, but often for non-union workers in the industry as well.

Or as the Washington Post puts it:

Over the past decade or so, unions in contract negotiations typically chose to forgo large wage increases in exchange for more generous medical benefits, mainly because costs were rising faster than inflation. Now, as the Senate Finance Committee works on health-care legislation, union members say they feel unfairly targeted.

"It's the old Washington, D.C., law of unintended consequences," said Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consulting firm. "They went after the Goldman Sachs partner and they ended up with the fireman in Brooklyn."

Taxing union members' good health care plans would be punishing union members for fighting for affordable health care in the first place. It would be the ultimate betrayal of what union members stand for, and have always stood for: raising standards of living throughout our industries. It would be complete submission to the slippery-slope mentality--to the idea that we all fall down together rather than use unity to climb up.

And it's not just union members--it's all kinds of hard-working Americans who would be affected and taxed. As Bob Laszewski points out:
It is pretty clear to me that millions of middle class Americans would get caught in this AMT-like tax trap.

If we want to discourage excessive and inflationary health care benefits, a laudable goal, let's be direct about that. But let's not pretend to be going after some rich guy on Wall Street all the while knowing we have set a tax trap for a retired teacher in Miami.
None of us should be complicit in that pretense. So good for you, the 145 members of Congress who are making that clear today. Thank you from UFCW members nationwide for doing the right thing, for union members and all working families.

H/T to Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake

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