You won’t hear this from the establishment media but the Senate’s ObamaCare repeal bill contains massive tax relief for middle class families.
When it was signed into law seven years ago, ObamaCare implemented a health care system with top-down, bureaucratic command and control. The government told you what insurance you must have. And what you cannot have.
ObamaCare suppressed individual choice, competition, and state flexibility, and imposed a long list of taxes on businesses and families.
Republican Senators now have the chance to repair this damage by passing the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA).
When signed into law, the BCRA will replace the failing system with a sustainable, patient-centered health care system, just as Republicans promised in the last election.
This legislation achieves four important goals.
First, the bill repeals a total of $700 billion dollars in ObamaCare taxes that raise the cost of care, restrict choice, and hurt economic growth.
Second, the BCRA strengthens tax-preferred Health Savings Accounts, so that families are better able to save for health care expenses.
Third, the bill allows states to implement health care systems that work for families in the real world. No longer will we have a one size fits all system dreamed up by bureaucrats in Washington and policed by the IRS.
Fourth, the BCRA enacts long overdue entitlement reform that reins in out of control spending while ensuring the truly needy are protected.
ObamaCare imposed massive tax hikes that restricted the ability of individuals and families to make their own health care choices. The law imposed a $2,000 tax penalty on a family of four that failed to purchase “government-approved” health insurance and another $2,000 penalty on businesses for every employee they cannot provide with “government-approved” insurance.
In addition to these mandates, ObamaCare imposed middle class income tax hikes on families facing high medical bills. Prior to passage of the law, a family could deduct medical costs once they exceeded 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. ObamaCare increased that to 10 percent, a tax increase that hits families making an average of $53,000.
Even the ObamaCare taxes on businesses hurt families because they are inevitably passed onto consumers. For instance, the ObamaCare health insurance tax levied on companies based on their market share is directly passed onto millions of individuals and small businesses. According to the American Action Forum, this tax increases premiums by $5,000 over a decade, with half of the tax falling on families earning less than $50,000 per year.
In addition to repealing these direct and indirect taxes on families, the BCRA repeals ObamaCare taxes that hinder economic growth, like the 3.8 percent capital gains tax on investment income of individuals and small businesses. This ObamaCare levy is a tax on new investment and thus slows job creation. How much damage did it do? Well, repeal of this tax will create an estimated 133,000 jobs over the long-term.
While the BCRA repeals ObamaCare's taxes, it also expands the ability of American families to use tax-preferred savings accounts to save for health care expenses.
Currently, 20 million Americans use Healthcare Savings Accounts (HSAs) and another 30 million use Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). The Senate bill repeals ObamaCare’s taxes that restrict the ability of families to use these accounts. The bill restores the ability of families to use HSAs to purchase over the counter medicines. The bill also eliminates ObamaCare’s $2,500 cap on FSAs.
The bill also doubles the contribution limit on HSAs so they become an even better tool for families to pay for family health care expenses. This expansion also reduces taxes on HSA users by almost $20 billion over the next decade.
In addition to tax cuts, the BCRA achieves bold, once in a lifetime entitlement reform by block granting Medicaid to the states through a traditional grant or through a targeted per-capita allotment. This will put Medicaid on a budget for the first time in history allowing it to grow with inflation and population but not continue to spin out of control.
This change is an important step toward reining in Washington’s spending problem. Under these reforms, states will have the ability to introduce a system that fits their needs, will have important flexibility to implement work requirements, while having several years to phase in block grants.
This is not the only flexibility the BCRA grants states - the bill also empowers governors to create a health care system free from ObamaCare regulations if they choose.
The Senate bill drastically expands existing state innovation waivers so states can choose to set up a system free from numerous ObamaCare regulations that have increased costs such as Qualified Health Plan requirements, Essential Health Benefit requirements, and actuarial value requirements. The law also allows states to modify federal tax credits and rules based around individual and group insurance markets.
This will grant every state across the country the ability to implement a system that best fits the needs of their residents towards a system of lower costs, more choice, and increased access to care.
After seven years ObamaCare has failed.
Insurance premiums went up, not down. Government spending and taxes went up, not down. Americans had less choice and control over their own health, not more. The Senate bill reverses all of these trends and begins to move towards patient-centered, flexible and affordable health care for all Americans.
Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform. Follow him on Twitter @GroverNorquist.