IBEW: Taxing Health-Care Benefits is Still a Bad Idea (and Buy America is back)
by The Electrical Worker, Tue Dec 22, 2009 at 05:10:52 AM EST
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers head Ed Hill has joined forces with the Communications Workers of America and the CEOs of the two top major telecommunications firms to oppose the provision in the Senate's health-care reform bill that would levy a tax on existing health-care plans.
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid jointly signed by CWA President Larry Cohen, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, the group writes:
If (the provision) was intended to address only excessive or luxury health benefits plans, it will, in fact, impact the health plans covering tens of millions of workers, including those in telecommunications, manufacturing, construction, mining, public sectors ...
As the legislation moves forward, we hope to work with you and your colleagues to ensure that health reform legislation extends health insurance coverage to millions of people who do not currently have coverage and guarantee that most Americans will have access to quality, affordable coverage. At the same time, we hope to assure that reform does not jeopardize the coverage that millions of Americans rely on to meet their health care needs.
As an article on the Politics Daily Web site points out, the proposed health-care tax would hit middle-class Americans hard.
The levy has been dubbed the "Cadillac tax," but research shows it would likely affect a broad swath of Americans regardless of their income, which could indeed amount to the tax on the middle-class that President Obama promised would not happen under his administration.
Reporter Patricia Murphy references a recent report from Mercer, an employee benefits consulting firm, that finds that the tax would put a squeeze, on not only working Americans, but also on their employers.
(T)wo-thirds of companies polled said they would also raise health care costs for workers through higher co-pays and deductibles, regardless of whether the employee is a CEO or a line worker at a factory.
Beth Umland, the research director for Mercer, explained that although the "Cadillac tax" is targeted at high-dollar plans, the cost of insurance plans is primarily driven by the age, gender, health and location of a company's workers, not the lifestyle they enjoy.
`Buy America' Returns
While the Senate is debating health care, the House passed a new jobs bill on December 16, and supporters of American manufacturing are pleased that it includes some important provisions to make sure federal money goes to creating jobs here at home.
According to the Alliance for American Manufacturing the bill includes:
* $48.3 billion for infrastructure investment ($27.5B for highways, $8.4B for transit, $800M for Amtrak, $500M for airports, $100M for maritime, $2B for clean water, $715 for Army Corps, $4.1B for school construction, and so on
* Buy America requirement (identical to Section 1605 of the Recovery Act)
* Small Business Loans ($354M to extend loan guarantee programs)
Creating American jobs requires Congress to `Buy America,' so I'm glad to see some important provisions in the new bill that makes sure federal funds are going to American workers and American businesses.