June 14th, 2009
05:10 PM ET
14 years ago

Biden refuses to rule out new tax on health care benefits

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/06/14/art.bidensmile0614.gi.jpg caption="Vice President Biden said Sunday that the Obama administration opposes taxing employer-provided health care benefits but would not say the president would reject legislation that included such a new tax. "]
(CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday that the Obama administration opposes taxing the medical benefits employers provide workers to pay for health care reform, but he refused to rule it out entirely.

"We do not think that is the way to go; we think that is the wrong way to finance this legislation," Biden said on NBC's "Meet the Press" program. Pressed on whether President Barack Obama would veto a bill from Congress containing such a mechanism, Biden said Obama would consider the measure in total before making a decision.

Obama has outlined a series of steps to lower current costs and raise taxes to pay for an overhaul of the health care system, including creation of a government-funded "public" option for the nation's 46 million uninsured. He will speak Monday to the American Medical Association, which questions how a public option can work.

On Saturday, the president proposed $313 billion in cuts and new savings over the next decade, with some of the funds coming from expected increases in efficiency, reductions in excessive hospital payments and drug cost savings from individuals enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid.

Biden noted that the administration also seeks to raise $300 billion in taxes by limiting the deductions of high-income Americans.

Republican leaders join Obama and Democrats in calling for health care reform, but oppose a public option as a potential boondoggle that would be unfair to private insurers.

"If the government is in the insurance business, there won't be any other insurers Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told the CBS program "Face the Nation."

"It's inevitable because the taxpayers will be backing up the program."

McConnell said "virtually every Republican" would oppose a government-funded public option, which Obama supports to provide coverage for those currently uninsured and to stimulate competition with private insurers to lower costs.

Possible alternatives to a public option include private cooperatives, like electricity cooperatives, owned and paid for by communities that would compete with existing insurance programs.

Supporters say such a program would require initial government support, but eventually would provide the kind of competition Obama seeks without creating a new government bureaucracy.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that Obama was open to whatever ideas will work to address a problem that must be addressed.

"The costs are crushing us," Sebelius said. "It's hurting families. Our businesses are less competitive. We can't continue on this pathway."

Like Biden, she warned against a possible tax on medical benefits, saying it would affect privately owned plans that currently cover 180 million Americans.

"There is still a great deal of disagreement on whether or not taxing benefits at any level of any kind really does put us a step forward or take us a step back," Sebelius said.

Updated: 5:10 p.m.

Filed under: Health care • Joe Biden • Popular Posts
soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. bbm

    BTW, I am not a paid republican, I even voted for Obama, and now I am doubting that. I am sick of the taxes!!!

    June 14, 2009 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  2. BILL, WI

    Reform of health care costs should start with medical malpractice insurance and the awards for medical mistakes. There should be limits on awards, as there are in Europe, since medical care is stringently regulated from the setting of fees to limiting malpractice payments. In any event doctors will no longer be required to pay $20 K a year (or more) in insurance since the state will set the limit of suits an individual could collect.

    June 14, 2009 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  3. Tony - NJ

    I want the same health care they get. The best of the best medical care for life with no deductables or co-pay for $35.00 per month.

    June 14, 2009 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  4. George

    Barack Obama said when he was runing for President that he would not tax health care benefits. Now they are going the other way. Anyone that is against this, please contact the White House and let them know that we don't like campaign promises rejected now. Obama is doing a fine job, but he has to keep his word. Please contact them.

    June 14, 2009 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  5. Rao in NC

    We really need the Public Plan option. At any price, it means that serious claims WILL BE PAID, per plan rules. I would trust the Public Plan, to cover patients if there is a serious and catastrophic illness like cancer, without harassment on bills. Incidentally, I do travel to Canada often, and can tell you that no Canadian will trade their plan for ours.

    June 14, 2009 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  6. JB

    Peter E,

    You're not worried about government-run health care, huh? You've never lived in a country with government-run health insurance, have you?

    I have, and although I lived in one of the better ones, I'm here to say that health care is *way* better here than it was there.

    My wife, who is from another country with mostly government-run health care, is astonished by how much better the health care is here than there. She's simply in love with our health care system.

    Does that mean our system is perfect? No, but it's much, much better than you and a lot of other people think, because you haven't seen the alternatives. For all its flaws, our current system is better than any goverment-run system I've seen. Even Japan's – which is probably the best of the lot – pales beside ours.

    June 14, 2009 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
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