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. Patti

    Larry could not have said it better !

    June 14, 2009 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  2. Liberals are retarded

    Hey Pete

    I see you threw out the "paid republcans" qoute out there as a pre-emptive strike. You are obviously an ACORN nut.

    Nice little dig about the "terrorist attack" too. Of course, I assume your talking about the shameless muslim convert who cowardly shot down the military recruiter. That is the only terrorist attack I am aware of.

    Get back to drooling, Lib.

    June 14, 2009 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  3. JonF

    For instance, I can afford to pay my own way if I am uninsured. I don't need the government to pay for me to have watered coverage. I just need to be able to afford insurance. Since I am over 50 and have had a few ailments – insurance companies want to charge me $6000 a month for insurance, if they will even insure me at all. That's $6000 a MONTH!

    You don't need to put together some big spending program to fix the problem for people like me. And a good percentage of the people without insurance are in precisely the same position. If you make it affordable – I can more than pay my way. Lots of us could pay for insurance if the government would force these people to insure us reasonably.

    There is no need for big new programs and entitlements. You can fix things with comprehensive regulation and some assistance to those who still can't pay after that. But in no way to you need to pay for 47 million people. Obama is playing games with us.

    June 14, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  4. Neilz

    Let's tax economically over-stressed Americans on money they never see. Let's allow non-profit charitable care givers to fall by the wayside. But let's guarantee medical professionals and insurance conglomerates don't lose a dime. And if the American people don't like it, we'll make it illegal NOT to have insurance and penalize them civilly, and maybe criminally, for having the unmitigated audacity to be too poor to afford medical care.
    Keep your powder dry.

    June 14, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  5. JB


    "Larry from RI"

    Amen. I fully agree with you. Something certainly has been "rotten" within the health care industry for decades.

    Also, why is it that our elected representative we send to Congress are ALL fully covered under a government run health insurance program. But, we the people who sent them there to represent US, still either go WITHOUT health insurance, or continue to PAY TOO MUCH for it!!!!!!!!!

    ENOUGH!!!!!!!!! ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 14, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  6. The Complaint Department

    It's as though we have Taxation without representation. If I oppose a tax on my healthcare benefits who is going to listen? You can send all the letters and comments you want to your representative but nothing ever changes. I got a few breaths of life left maybe the dems can pass legislationt o tax that.......


    June 14, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  7. Annie

    I'd like to see some of the money hidden in off-shore tax havens brought back. Can you just imagine what we could do with that? I'd start with educating the ignorant masses in an effort to tamp down the hate that's about to boil over. CNN, you could do that now – you have the platform.

    June 14, 2009 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  8. simple Bob

    since when did it become a right to have health insurance in the first place? Get a job, get 2 stop blaming other people. Step back and take some responsibility in life and stop trying to get other people to do all the work.

    June 14, 2009 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  9. Steve

    Bottom line folks, if you don't like the health care move to Europe! My wife is German, a bit of advise, don't just look at their health care (which is far from perfect), look at the TAXES they pay to receive these "benefits". VAT and tons of hidden taxes are everywhere, 5 years living in Europe conviced me! Where in our Constitution or Bill of Rghts does it garantee free/subsidized health care? We should be grateful to live in a country with the personal freedoms we have, most of the world's population is not so lucky! BE AN AMERICAN!!!!

    June 14, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  10. Shayne from NH

    Unfair to private insurers? You're kidding, right? UNFAIR? What is unfair is that it's more of a business decision to let some 78-year-old lady die of pneumonia or COPD because the insurance companies believe it is too costly to keep her alive. It's unfair that private insurance companies make more money than God-AND-and...try to play God by deciding who shall live and who shall not. THAT is unfair! I hope the "private" insurance companies go to hell.

    June 14, 2009 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  11. Barb

    I'm a Canadian... and so happy to have health insurance that works for me.... THROUGH MY GOVERNMENT. I have had three different tumour diagnoses in the last ten years.... all looked after speedily, compassionately, and successfully. In the U.S. these operations would have put my family into bancruptcy... Here in Canada – I PAID NOTHING. I am a senior – and ALL my prescriptions are FREE to me. This system of health care, was brought in in the Province of Ontario in 1959. It has had tweeking here and there.. – and, nothing is perfect. But I fail to understand how Americans look at the "Canadian system" with such fear. You all should be so lucky!!!!

    go Obama!

    June 14, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  12. Hunter Reid

    If you like the postal service, you'll love federal government-run health care. Lousy, expensive, debt-laden service composed of disgruntled employees with no stake in the bottom line. You clowns on the left and "independent" fools just couldn't see through this pupeteer called Obama.

    June 14, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  13. Bronson

    Wake up Americans. You are already paying as much taxes as the Europeans and Canadians, yet you have nothing to show for it. You STILL have to go out and purchase a private policy and hope that it is there when you need it. At least they have guaranteed health coverage that can't be denied, has no pre-existing conditions clauses and they don't ever have to worry about losing coverage if they lose a job. And they don't have to deal with an insurance company when they least feel like it (When they are sick or injured) . In short they enjoy life much more and have a lot less stress by not having to worry about going bankrupt due to obscene medical costs. Oh by the way they CAN see the doctor of their choice. I have Blue Cross and you HAVE to see a doctor within the Blue Cross group, or its not covered. Hows that for Private vs. Govn't

    June 14, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  14. Sasha

    Didn't Obama point the nasty finger at McCain during the campaign, and in his know-it-all voice, say that the Republican plan was to tax health benefits? Now that Obama has bottom in the White House, McCain's idea to tax health benefits sounds like a good idea to him, after all. You figure it out.

    June 14, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  15. MatthewDetroit

    It is called double speak otherwise known as lying.
    We oppose taxes, oops have to raise some more money to spend.
    The last thing I want to run is a car company, I am busy with North Korea, I am busy with Iran, I am busy picking my NCAA winner,
    Oops I took over GM. But I wont make any decisions.
    Hey Waggoner, You are fired guy. Too bad hate to do it, ouch it hurts.
    We dont want to run the company, he voluntarily quit. We did not fire that man.
    If we dont pass this 797 Billion stimulus unemployment will go wild. If we pass it we can stop it at 8 %. Well its at 9.4% and growing.
    The best lie though is, we will SAVE or CREATE 3 million jobs.
    What bull. Trying to give themselves credit for saving jobs when we are at 9.4%. What a joke.

    June 14, 2009 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  16. uninsured family

    Of course Health Care benfits should be taxed. The IRS is considering taxing company provided cell phones that are used for personl calls,. All fringe benefits should be taxed! Why should my fanily be uninsured even though my spouse and I both work? We are not poor but we certainly cannot afford what it would cost for a very limited policy. We had to stop our private insurance when it became a choice between insurance or the mortgage. The health care system in this country is broken. My spouse works for the Fedreral Government but because it is seasonal employment (off 4 months every year) there is no Health Insurance benefit. Why can't health care be a government susidized item just like roads,national parks, schools etc etc. Who decided roads were more worthy of funding than people. Make everything a toll road and then pay to use them! That would help with the oil dependency issue.

    June 14, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  17. Tax&Waste

    That's all he Biden is good at? Tax and waste. A JOKER.

    June 14, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  18. MatthewDetroit

    The goverment is not competitive.
    The goverment insurance would knock out private competition.
    Anyone that is naive enough to think Joe Biden is not floating a tax increase and seeing what you people think is nuts.
    He is talking out both sides of is arse and telling you the taxman cometh. Wakeup.

    June 14, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  19. Chuck

    So Joe, you and Obama lied to the nation last fall.

    Dear Democrats, you better start preparing for losing House, Senate and Governorships starting this fall.

    June 14, 2009 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  20. Anonymous in NC

    Why is it ,that when a person goes to the Dr. and has no insurance benefits they are charged more money that someone with Insurance, even with a 20% discount for paying cash and the entire bill at time of service it still cost more money. I do not understand. Everyone should be billed the same fee amount rather they have insurance or not. This is discrimination. Our government allows this? What happen to the discrimination laws or do they apply only to chosen people?

    June 14, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  21. Don Hanson

    If they tax health benefits are they going to tax their benefits also?

    June 14, 2009 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  22. Big Mowma

    People need to take this whole issue into their own hands, from treating their own colds (and recognizing the danger signs for a more serious issue) to taking the time to look into alternative and preventive healthcare. Google a Neti pot some time. This one tool could virtually eliminate 80% of clinic visits regarding suspected sinusitis, allergies, etc. The pharmaceutical companies have lobbyists battling to keep the public dependent and addicted on quick-fix pills that don't cure and only mask symptoms. The gov't "for the people, by the people" is no longer feasible...the public HAS to take this into their own hands and hit the drug companies where it hurts the most. Maybe it's time we take a more spiritual approach to our own demise and stop buying into healthcare to stop the inevitable? Educate yourselves!! CNN has never posted my comments before, why start now? And just who is buying their ad space????? Pfizer? Merck? We'll see...

    June 14, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  23. Tax&Waste

    Pat B said: "I tend to agree with OBSERVER. Health care is too expensive, period! .... because American's didn't stand behind their countries manufacturing and bought foreign imports. .. 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..."

    Get your fact straight. These Auto companies have been producing poor quality/gas guzzle vehices and most the vehicles' parts or the vehicles are being manufacturing in China, Mexico, Russia, etc... They have moved most jobs to these countries. Sorry there is nothing "Made in USA" for these companies. Helath care cost is high because of liability law suits from these lawyers or lawyers became politicians.

    June 14, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  24. bbm

    why are responsible people getting screwed in all of this??

    June 14, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  25. Coley

    So, I do think that our Health Care system needs a tweak. But maybe a minor tweak.

    Go ahead, have universial health care. Do it. All of you will be hurting. The rich will be fine. Everyone else will be suffering. I know what universial health care is ask Canada how they like it. They hate it. To the doctors your just a number and come on we need ONE occupation that is not hurting in our country.

    Great President Guys.

    June 14, 2009 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
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