Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama thinks a Senate proposal to tax insurance companies that provide high-cost "Cadillac" health care coverage has merit, his senior adviser said Sunday.
In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union," Obama aide David Axelrod provided few details but offered some insight into how the president views aspects of emerging health care reform legislation.
“I think there’s a will to get this done,” Axelrod said of the end game of a national debate that has roiled for months. “People understand we’re on the doorstep of doing something really historic.
The House has passed its version of the bill, and Senate Democrats prepared to brave the aftermath of a blizzard Sunday in their push to pass their health care measure before Christmas. If the Senate passes a bill, the two versions would be merged into a final measure requiring approval from both chambers before going to Obama to be signed into law.
While the House and Senate bills agree on most issues, there are significant differences over how to pay for them and how they will expand health coverage to more than 30 million Americans currently uninsured.
The House bill calls for an income tax surcharge on the wealthy, while the Senate version would increase the Medicare payroll tax for those earning more than $200,000 and levy a tax on insurance companies that provide expensive health plans.
Axelrod avoided discussing details, but said that taxing the expensive insurance plans would lower their long-term costs because insurers would seek to bring down the price to avoid the tax.
Obama "thinks that has some merit," Axelrod said.
Organized labor opposes taxing expensive health plans, arguing such benefits have been negotiated for workers in lieu of pay raises in a changing economy.
Axelrod noted the plan would tax insurance companies, forcing them to become more efficient. Eventually, he said, reducing the cost of employer-provided health care should mean more money to raise wages.
Some liberal Democrats criticize the Senate bill as being too weak, but Axelrod said a final health care measure passed by Congress will mean historic and far-reaching benefits for the nation.
"It is so wrong to suggest that this is somehow some kind of middling improvement for the American people," he said.