Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Senator McCain's New Tax on Health Insurance

From TPM Café:

Strange winds are blowing in economic policy land. After failing to privatize social insurance, the Bush Treasury is now socializing private insurance. The Democratic presidential candidate is running on a tax reform platform that provides three times greater tax cuts for middle class families than the Republican candidate's platform. And the Republican candidate, after advocating deregulatory policies for 26 years in Congress, has now embraced the rhetoric of a populist regulatory reformer.

But the most unlikely wind of all is Senator McCain's health care proposal which by the end of his first term would increase taxes by $1362 for middle-income American families, while raising marginal tax rates on labor income by more than President Bush's tax cuts have reduced them.

Here's how the McCain plan works. Every family receives a refundable tax credit of $5000 that can be used only to purchase health insurance. Individuals receive $2500. McCain's advisers say the cost of this tax credit is $3.6 trillion dollars over ten years. They also say that their plan is revenue neutral because they introduce a new tax on employer-based health insurance that the Joint Committee on Taxation scores as raising $3.6 trillion over 10 years.

Currently, employee compensation in the form of employer-provided health insurance is exempt from both the personal income tax and FICA payroll taxes. Most employee payments for employer-based health insurance are also tax preferred. McCain's plan would eliminate these and other health-related tax expenditures.

The fact that the plan is revenue neutral means that the tax savings for families receiving tax cuts are exactly balanced by the tax increases for families whose taxes go up. But because the tax cuts are front loaded, after just a few years most American families will see their tax bills go up under the McCain plan.

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