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Posted by on Oct 30, 2009 in Health, Politics | 23 comments

The House Health Bill: Here come the taxes

Just to be clear, I have not read the entire House health care bill which dropped on our heads like a roughly 2,000 page albatross yesterday. (I’ve gotten through the first hundred or so, and my hat is off to anyone who reads fast enough to have finished the whole thing already.) However, Americans for Tax Reform have the manpower to split up the job and have helpfully identified the laundry list of new taxes and fees which will be coming our way to pay for this boondoggle. Here are just a few of the high (low?) lights.

Employer Mandate Excise Tax (Page 275): If an employer does not pay 72.5 percent of a single employee’s health premium (65 percent of a family employee), the employer must pay an excise tax equal to 8 percent of average wages. Small employers (measured by payroll size) have smaller payroll tax rates of 0 percent (<$500,000), 2 percent ($500,000-$585,000), 4 percent ($585,000-$670,000), and 6 percent ($670,000-$750,000). Individual Mandate Surtax (Page 296): If an individual fails to obtain qualifying coverage, he must pay an income surtax equal to the lesser of 2.5 percent of modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) or the average premium. MAGI adds back in the foreign earned income exclusion and municipal bond interest. Medicine Cabinet Tax (Page 324): Non-prescription medications would no longer be able to be purchased from health savings accounts (HSAs), flexible spending accounts (FSAs), or health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). Insulin excepted. Excise Tax on Medical Devices (Page 339): Imposes a new excise tax on medical device manufacturers equal to 2.5 percent of the wholesale price. It excludes retail sales and unspecified medical devices sold to the general public.

There are plenty more listed, so click through the link for the full monty. (So to speak.) But in case the likely unconstitutional individual mandate and the increased tax burden on employers wasn’t enough, I wanted to focus on the last one quoted above. Frankly, I’m shocked that the new taxes on medical devices made the cut, but somehow it did.

When rumors of this plan first surfaced in committee Ed Morrissey did a couple of great rundowns on the list of items which were going to be costing all of us more in order to fund this adventure. The original plan called for taxing virtually everything you might find in a drug store, from tampons to tongue depressors. But even the most spend-crazy Democrats realized the backlash that would have caused, so it was scaled back to only certain classes of medical devices and products. They still hit a wide variety of common products, though. A very limited selection includes:

    Dentures, both partial and full (Class VI)
    Female condoms, single use (Class III)
    Stair-climbing wheelchair (Class III)
    Hip, knee, ankle, breast prosthetics (Class III)
    Soft contact lenses, extended wear (Class III)
    Dialysis catheters (Class III)
    Mammograms (Class II)

So while the Obama administration’s talking heads continue insisting they will only tax the “very rich” (a joke which really never gets old) and they work on taxing cigarettes, soda, coffee, gasoline and heating oil, (with hamburger soon to follow, I’m sure) now we’ll be treated to a whole new set of taxes. Need more help with your health care needs? No problem! We’ll just tax your wheelchairs, your teeth and your prosthetic devices!

One can only imagine what else we’ll dig up when we finish going through this behemoth, but the early results don’t look promising.