As the White House prepares for a bipartisan summit on health care later this month, the rhetoric and reality of the President’s plans for health care reform continue to conflict. President Obama claims that he wants to bring congressional Republicans to the table to achieve health care reform. However, he has also expressed the desire to present a final piece of legislation prior to the summit, focusing on marrying the differing ideas of House and Senate Democrats rather than those of Democrats and Republicans. In any case, this is not off to a bipartisan start.
Though the White House perseveres in pushing the main elements of the massive Democratic health care bills, the unpopularity of these legislative proposals soars; it is a stark fact of life that is unacknowledged by the President. A classic example of a provision that is highly unpopular is the excise tax on “high value” health plans included in the Senate bill to raise revenue to cover the uninsured. The tax increase is a tax increase; it is not a much needed reform of the inequitable tax treatment of health insurance. Though support from Democrats in Congress and even labor leaders who helped cut the deal continues to dwindle, the White House continues to urge Congress to include the Senate excise tax in a final health bill.
A poll done by the AFL-CIO found that the new Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), who ran on the platform of opposition to Obamacare, won 49 percent of the vote among union members. His opponent, Democrat Martha Coakley, received just 46 percent of the Massachusetts union vote. This is a stunning political development. And that’s even after union leaders cut a sweetheart deal for union workers exempting them from the excise tax on high-cost health plans and thus shifting those costs onto the rest of American households that had similar health plans. In January, Rasmussen reported that 63 percent of all Americans opposed an excise tax on Cadillac plans. When union members are exempt from the tax, opposition rises to 70 percent.
The excise tax is, in fact, a middle class tax increase—in direct violation of the President’s high profile promise not to raise taxes on American households making less than $250,000 per year. The special tax represents just one of many provisions of Obamacare which have plummeted in public approval ratings. Most Americans say they want Congress to start over again on health care reform. Clearly, ordinary Americans aren’t buying the White House’s prescriptions for overhauling the health care system. A constituent of Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), quoted in the New York Times, said it best: “Eddie, I’ve voted for you my whole life. But if you think you will tax my benefits and give the money to Ben Nelson in Nebraska, you’re crazy.”