Sunday, January 21, 2007

Death wish

Bush must have one. Really. Among his proposals, to be presented in his State of the Union address next week, is a "dead on arrival" plan to tax some employees (middle class ones) on a portion of their health insurance benefits, to use those tax revenues to make up for tax deductions to be granted to those who pay insurance premiums out of their own pocket. (He's also going to address the "immigration issue"--the one issue he may find acceptable to the Democratic congress, but which will piss off his "base" completely.)

The health-insurance plan is so insidious it's hard to capture in words. Imagine an employee whose employer-paid plan costs more than a certain government-approved amount, and hence the excess becomes taxable income to the employee. The employee then not only ends up paying federal income tax on money that never comes to him in cash, but hopefully not in benefits either, since any sound-minded person wants not to have health problems, seeks not to incur health costs. Furthermore, Bush's plan will cause a race to the bottom in employer health plans, with employees now joining employers in seeking cheaper, and hence less extensive, plans. The result will be less coverage for employees who have health benefits on the job; while subsidizing those who have no insurance by allowing a tax deduction for their payments. But the latter, recall, would have to have significant enough income to benefit from such a deduction--and who would those be? Surely not the poor, since they hardly pay any income tax in any event. All that would happen is that some middle-class workers would pay for others' benefits.

Now there's a "compassionate conservative" for you.

No comments: