Employer-paid health insurance is usually a non-taxable benefit to the employee. IRC S106.
Over the years this “loophole” has popped up in various discussions of tax fairness and expanding health care coverage.
The Obama administration has floated various trial balloons, and Senator Baucus (D. Montana), an influential player in the health care reform debate, thinks the time for change may have come.
Rep. Charles Rangel (D. New York) a veteran representative and powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee says simply, “no way.” All tax legislation originates in Ways and Means.
Candidate Obama criticized John McCain for proposing the taxation of health insurance benefits, but advisors to President Obama will not close the door, including new DHHS secretary Sebelius.
President Obama needs a major funding source to help close the deficit and to provide a $600M plus health care reserve fund.
Some labor unions fiercely defend the tax break, as middle class union members would be hit hard by a tax on health insurance benefits.
(Using real tax family returns and creating pro formas by adding policy amounts, the tax increase could range from about $1500 - $5000, depending on the structure of the tax, the possible applicability of FICA and Medicare taxes, and the taxation policies of state and local governments.)
In theory, employers would save some money because enhanced government programs would slow or eliminate “cost shifting” from the uninsured to the insured. However, employers might end up paying higher matching FICA taxes. Employees would be unlikely to see any of the savings (if any).
This could be a nasty debate, with some strange bedfellows.