NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 28, 2009

Sen. Baucus's (D-Mont.) health care bill provides for a tax on "gold-plated" health insurance policies.  But, as with the Alternative Minimum Tax, once slated to be imposed only on the wealthy, inflation will make most Americans liable to pay the 40 percent tax in a few years, say Dick Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton; and Eileen McGann, Eileen McGann, an attorney and consultant.

  • The tax applies to all individual policies with premiums above $8,750 and families of four whose premiums exceed $23,000.
  • But the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the average health insurance premium for families of four will reach $25,000 by 2018.
  • The average premium should pass the thresholds in Baucus's bill by 2016.

So, a few years after the bill takes effect in 2013:

  • The health insurance premium tax will become virtually universal, and this tax is to be a 40 percent levy.
  • So, in six years, the average family health insurance policy, now projected to cost $25,000, will, in fact, cost $35,000 due to the Obama-Baucus tax.

The Baucus bill tax threshold is, of course, not indexed for medical inflation or even for regular inflation. (Premiums have been rising at 10 percent for a decade and the average family premium now is 109 percent higher than it was 10 years ago.)

Will Congress act, in the future, to index the health insurance premium tax so it does not reach down to the average American's policies?  Not very likely, say Morris and McGann.

As costs rise under ObamaCare (as they have in Massachusetts, where they have more than doubled in two years), the pressure for increased revenue will dictate that Congress let the tax grow and expand its reach until it is a universal tax that pays for universal care.

Until now, the Obama plan has not meant much for the average American who now has insurance. While scarcity of doctors and medical care is a likely result, the harm was largely confined to the elderly, who will bear the brunt of the rationing.  But now, the Baucus bill shows that the real story is quite different.  In a few years' time, most families will find their health insurance premiums 40 percent higher because of the new tax.  Far from cutting the cost of health insurance, the bill will send it through the roof, say Morris and McGann.

Source: Dick Morris and Eileen McGann, "Obama's health insurance tax: Coming soon to all policies," The Hill, September 24, 2009.

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