Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, set out a startling scenario in floor debate Saturday before the House approved the health care bill pushed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The bill would slap an 8 percent tax on the payrolls of employers who do not provide health insurance to their workers and pay at least 65 percent of the premiums for an employee who has a family insurance plan and 72.5 percent of the premiums for an employee who has an individual insurance plan. Barton spelled out what he believes will happen if this provision becomes law.
Many Americans might be tempted to casually conclude that the purpose of Pelosi's new payroll tax is to force employers to buy health insurance for their workers and that the parties hurt most by the tax would be the employers who pay it.
This is wrong on both counts. The Pelosi tax will not force employers to buy insurance for their workers, it will give them an incentive not buy insurance. The parties most hurt by the Pelosi tax will not be the employers who pay it but the workers dumped into the government-run health care system Pelosi's plan creates.
This will happen when employers discover that paying Pelosi's tax is cheaper than buying health insurance. The Pelosi payroll tax will be a whip wielded by the state to drive Americans into a socialized health care system from which there will be no escape.
In 2016, when the Pelosi plan would be in full force, the average employer-provided health insurance plan will cost $11,000 for a family and $6,000 for an individual, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Barton based his analysis on a family plan that cost only $10,000.
"The employee pays $3,500 and the employer pays $6,500," said Barton. "Since there's an 8 percent payroll tax on the (employer's) average (wage) of $40,000, that would be about $3,200. Most employers, when this plan is implemented, can pay the 8 percent tax, which is $3,200, or the $6,500 premium that they pay for their employees.
"They're going to stop providing health care ... and they're just going to put them in the public option," said Barton. "The employee is going to take that $3,500 that he or she was paying for their premium for a $10,000 plan and they're going to find out that when they go into the health care exchange, their $3,500 doesn't buy a $10,000 policy. It buys a $3,500 policy. It's a bad deal."