Now that the various health care plans are being reduced to print, the financial details are emerging and with them a fundamental conclusion is becoming evident: The Obama plan is a giant tax increase for much of the American people (not just the rich).
Start with the mandate that falls on those whose welfare is the supposed object of the entire program -- the uninsured. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the average uninsured person or family will have to pay between 15 percent and 20 percent of his total income on health insurance (counting premiums, deductibles and co-payments) before any of the subsidy in the Baucus bill kicks in. Even in the more generous House bill, the tab that the uninsured must pay is very, very high.
Most uninsured would likely be quite happy to avoid paying this much of their income for health insurance. But they will be forced to shell out the money under the program. Others would want catastrophic coverage (which for the young would likely not be too costly), but the Obama program requires comprehensive insurance that is costly to satisfy the government requirement.
Having spent the entire campaign and much of the last year speaking about "affordable" coverage, it turns out the program is not at all affordable, but a massive new tax on the average uninsured American.
Then there is the tax on health insurance premiums that is to finance about a quarter of the subsidy for the uninsured. This tax, billed as only to be levied on "gold plated" policies, will, in fact, reach down to the average American. The Baucus bill specifies that the tax of 35 percent would be put on all premiums over $8,000 for an individual and on proportionately higher premiums for families. Current estimates are that about one-tenth of the current health insurance policies would be taxable.
But the $8,000 premium level that will trigger coverage is not indexed for inflation, let alone for medical inflation, which typically runs twice as high. Obamacare will take effect in 2013. By then, the percentage of Americans subject to the tax will doubtless expand dramatically.