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

Biden refuses to rule out new tax on health care benefits

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.

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. democrat no mas(Independant now)

    Let's face the truth heads-up. Medicare & Medicaid only work because someone else pays taxes to furnish the services. The taxes I have paid over the last 50 years or so have all been spent. If we add more uninsured population to the entitlement system, the taxpayers will have to pay that somehow. Reducing what medical providers receive from the government will not work because they have already been cut to the point that providers are refusing to see Medicare or Medicaid patients. Stop telling us that we will benefit from spending money now for unspecified cost savings in the future. Or, just go ahead and admit that if taxes are not increased, then less care is our only other option.

    June 14, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  2. Dave in TX

    The hypocricy of this administration continues month after month. I loved it when King played Obama's blasting of this suggestion by McCain–and now it's on the table.

    The graph that John King had up this morning that shows how much $$$$$ Obama and the democrats are borrowing compared to the Iraq war and WWII should be on CNNs homepage; the top of the hour and the bottom of the hour newscasts for the next 5 days. And these guys haven't been in office 6 months.

    How many "normal Amercans" really get what this means?Remember, these guys said "not a single nickel" of tax increases. But now we could get taxed for our private healthcare; they are considering the VAT; how about that soda tax? How about the penalties that will come if you are obese? Expect a food tax. Start eating chinese. We are in a lot of trouble and these guys just want to keep the ball rolling.

    Shed the politics of it all, democrat or republican, look at your paystub, your budget, your electric bill, the water bill, the gas in your car; the vacation you're not taking anytime soon--then look at that graph. Get it up on the homepage CNN so everyone can get the DEBT picture burned in their mind. Then look at your kids, think about their kids, and their kids, and then call your congressman. Things need to be changed, and right now, it's spending.

    June 14, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  3. catmom

    I'm listening to Romney now telling us that we do not need the government involved in health care but I still don't understand why. He then goes on and talks about the cost of Medicaid since its conception. HELLOOOO!!! The cost of everything has increased over the years, get real. He continues with the myth that people won't have a choice. Excuse me, but people who are now covered by Medicare and Medicaid have a choice. They can go to any physician that accepts the coverage. Don't let Republicans scare you which they are trying to do. Investigate it for yourselves. Actually talk to people who are covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Of course there are people who have problems with these programs, but people who are purchasing private health care have problems as well.

    June 14, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. Karen

    It’s going to be sooooo expensive to the middle class taxpayer if they make employer contributions to health insurance taxable. This is the main reason I voted against McCain when Obama knocked him for the idea during the campaign. I've had health insurance my whole adult life, and it’s not cheap, but I've considered it a necessity. Now I’m supposed to pay for other people who can’t or don’t want to pay for it?

    June 14, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  5. Qui-Tam Relator

    To the politicians, you are all liars and cheats. You say one thing when your running fir office and do just the opposite when you are elected. Who are the people behind the scenes that are paying you off. Why do you favor the rich over the poor. You forget at your peril who makes his country up and who's sweat and tears forge this country. The world and the American people are watching you and your behavior toward the middle class and poor in this country. Don't bite the hand that feeds you or you may go down in history as .........

    June 14, 2009 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  6. New Age Democrat

    Ok, he opposes it, but doesn't rule it out? Seriously?

    Oh, and "catmom", have you ever dealt with Medicare and Medicaid? There's a reason why there are so many other supplemental programs. The quality under the government programs is a billion times worse than anything I've encountered under a private plan. The republicans aren't scaring me, it's the idiocy that the Democrats will take care of me while bleeding me dry with their taxes.

    June 14, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  7. Malia

    Obama will be known as the President who talked the talk but couldn't walk the walk.

    June 14, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  8. Jane

    It's patriotic to pay more taxes isn't it Joe?? Might want to tell the assembled cabinet they should pay their taxes every year–not just when they get vetted for a high profile job. The millionaires and congressional members will have the best health care and the rest of the average people will have to fight for medical. I don't relish the thought of being told I cannot have a medical test because my insurance doesn't cover it. Tell that to my dead aunt who was denied lung xrays because "medicare" would not authorize it and found out after she paid to have them done with her own dollars that she had stage 3 lung cancer and was never a smoker.

    June 14, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. joe m

    The way to fix healthcare is not to have government become more involved with it. I work in healthcare and the most dysfunctional part of the system is all the government involvment. Let's face it, how many things can anyone point out that worked out well, efficiently, and in a cost effective manner that had the government involved with it. Common sense is the key and the government has none of this

    June 14, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |

    The health care reform is needed, but there are people posting here that refuse to understand. One: The plan does not require you to give up your current health care plan. Two: If you are uninsured any plan is better than NONE. There are too many people in this GREAT COUNTRY that are one illness away from bankrupcy. I lived in Germany and used there government controled health care system. Anyone posting lies about how bad their systemj is has never been outside the USA. The German System works and no one in Germany has toi worry about seeing a doctor. Oh and byu the way the doctors in Gedrmany are just as good if not better than those in the USA. My wife was sick once and they even make house calls. When was the last time you had a doctor make a hose call?

    June 14, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |

    As long as we lewt private health insurance companies determine what care we can get, and let them turn away people that really need health care so they can make even bigger profits only rich people will be able to get good health care. There is no free lunch anymore. Health care does cost money. The problemn that wed must face is the current system does not work and it is costing more and more and giveing less and less. As long as you can afford the excessive cost of care you do not care but once you are turned away from a hospital because you can't afford to pay and they have already fullfilled their free servicde obligation and they turn you away or let you die in the waiting room you might think about the need for reform. But then it will be too late.

    June 14, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  12. Just Say No to Socialism

    Of course he wont rule out more taxes, this is what this administartion is about, more taxes, bigger government, unlimited spending, redistribution..... They are playing the socialist playbook to a tee. Fortunately I think the American people are slowly waking up

    June 14, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  13. DaBird

    Our family will pay $1,800 a year to support other people. We chose to work in the public sector, AND TAKE LESS MONEY, for the health care and retirement. Now we are going to get screwed. We pay our mortgage, we don't have debt, and OBAMA is going to tax us more and we make half of that $250,000 that wan't supposed to see a tax increase. THANKS FOR LYING TO US OBAMA.

    June 14, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  14. cramit

    If we tax everyone at 100% ( except our leaders, I love Obama ) then issue alittle back to each person leagal or not , we would all be OK.

    June 14, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  15. Russ H

    I like what the Observer states about Europe. I have a daughter and son-in-law that stated in Germany after I retired from the Army. Their system is by far the best. They make an appointment, see the doctor and gone. No paperwork or checking on insurance to see if they are qualified. Also I have met some real good doctors when I was over there.

    June 14, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  16. Mike O'Brien

    Joe, President Barack Obama and Senator Max Baucus.., if you 'tax' the small business owner.., the small business owner 'will close' and the employee or employees will be without a job and health care insurance. We just made things worse. Mike in Montana

    June 14, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. Glennis

    If anyone seriously thinks the government will not deny some treatments just as private insurance now does, that someone is seriously naive. Medicare nor medicaid pays for everything, now. How do you suppose a new, very expensive system is going to pay for itself? Cutting medicaid and medicare doesn't sound like a sensible idea unless, of course, you figure that untreated, old people will just die off and spare some expense. The middle class is going to be devastated from taxes need to fund another giant government boondoggle. By the time they get that rolling and then pass their climate change bill plus every other knee jerk, poorly researched and always unread bill from their wish list, we will have nothing left to tax. The rich will not suffer; they didn't get rich by being stupid. The poor are already taken care of.....and don't pretend they aren't. And the people who pay for all of it are, you guessed it, the middle class. The same people who have been paying through the nose all along and who get the shaft every time.

    June 14, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. Voter

    I think it OUTRAGEOUS to take away benefits from the elderly in the name of "health policy!" Bring your health care system UP TO THE LEVEL OF MEDICARE, Mr. Obama.

    Older Americans have contributed to Medicare for their ENTIRE WORKING LIVES with the PROMISE of full Medicare benefits. Now you want them to sacrifice something as basic as good health care to your politically correct scheme.

    If you want to get serious about the cost of health care, why haven't you overturned the legislation that REQUIRES Medicare NOT to shop for the best prices on drugs by now? This is a true no-brainer.

    And why haven't you done something to forbid advertising of prescription drugs?? All that money would buy a LOT of needed drugs, Mr. Obama. Because most doctors own stock in drug companies? How much money have YOU taken from drug companies?

    Or is the drug lobby that you FAILED to bounce out of the back rooms of Congress?

    Looking for money to pay for health care? How come nobody ever talks about the outrageous profits doctors and drug companies get? How about a hearing on THAT issue?

    You might even consider keeping your so-called "promise" to get out of Iraq. That's where our money goes. Not to us, but to rebuilding Iraq. And Iraqis have government sponsored health care.

    You millionaires are all alike. You know nothing about ordinary people. Among other things, you think we're pretty dumb, don't you?

    June 14, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. Tater

    We have tons of cash in washington that gets wasted on corporate subsidies and welfare for the rich. We could have awesome national health care if our congress had the guts to get it done!

    June 14, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  20. obama08

    As an Obama supporter, I don't like the idea of taxing my company's health insurance. There has to be another way to pay for coverage for the uninsured.

    June 14, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  21. Bad Career Move ... Mr. Politician

    I watched theinterview and I don't think Mr. Biden was saying that these benefits will be taxed.

    Mr. Biden was saying that he will not let a TV commentator / host prempt the outcome of the bi-partisan team working on this by getting him (the VP) to confirm or deny David Gregory's loaded question / speculation. I applaud the VP for doing this. I wish more guests on these shows would challenge the premise the TV hosts put forth in their tabloid-like, provactive "questions".

    TAX these benefits and 180 million American's will revolt. The senators ( Bacus & Grassley) should be run out of town by their constituents if they propose this. The PRESIDENT should publically call them to account in a prime time news conference, if they push this.

    Here's where John McCain's statement .... "I'll make them famous .... you'll know their names" is something the Administration should adopt.

    June 14, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. Pat B

    I tend to agree with OBSERVER. Health care is too expensive, period! Without insurance, it cost $200 just to go to the doctors if you have the flu. In today's market who can affort that? I am lucking enough to work for the DoD and have decent health care. I pay $250 a month for family coverage while the DoD pays $750. Then I have a deductible to meet so the first $500 comes out of pocket. Now I go to the doctors and have to pay my co-pay; $25 plus labs. The American populace decided that the overpriced autoworker had to go from $28 and hour with benefits down to $14 without benifits because American's didn't stand behind their countries manufacturing and bought foreign imports. Well folks, it is time to pay up; you set the standard for American corporations to follow suit and re-evaulate wages and benefits. More and more companies are reducing wages and medical benifits. The average Joe cannot affort medical coverage because Medical personnel have outpriced themselves and the government has got to step in to help all those less fortunate get cared for when sick. It is not the government to blame for health care revamping...it is the selfish American with the "all about me" attitude. Remember Overpriced medical professional that when you are driving your Toyota Camri or Honda Accord cause you thought it to be better made than our own American Chevy or Ford and wouldn't support the OVERPRICED autoworker or you decide to take that trip overseas cause the US has nothing to offer in cultrue; you caused the necessity of government involvment in all aspects from bank bail outs to the newly formed Goverment Motors to the soon to be socialized health care! I hope all greedy Americans are happy; you have no one to blame but yourselves.

    June 14, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  23. Dan, TX

    Writing is on the wall. This administration will make middle class and all others to pay. They are so much in debt and also counties/states are getting less revenue so taxation is the solution for them and it will be a disaster. I hope American people will Belize it sooner than later. Barack and Joe wants to destroy our economy, our health system, etc.

    June 14, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. Dan, TX

    Writing is on the wall. This administration will make middle class and all others to pay. They are so much in debt and also counties/states are getting less revenue so taxation is the solution for them and it will be a disaster. I hope American people will realize it sooner than later. Barack and Joe wants to destroy our economy, our health system, etc.

    June 14, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  25. DL

    What republicans fail to mention is the largest socialist agenda ever passed by the last president called medicare part D with no negotiation for prescription drugs. All current estimates have it bankrupting the goverment within the next 10 years, thats no money for police, fire, military, education you name it, this program alone takes 110% of revenue. Our health care system is ranked one of the lowest in the industrialized world. 25% of americans can't even get healthcare coverage. I am so tired of republican fear mongering throwing the word socialism, lets face facts, the wealthy have had socialism for years with corporate bailouts, no bid contracts, market protections, the list goes on and on. The GOP doesn't fear socialism, they fear losing THEIR socialism they've had in place for years. Let the Democrats fix it, they are the only ones in 30 years that's ever balanced a budget and shrank the size of goverment.

    June 14, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6