Search This Blog

Monday, October 19, 2009

Small Biz Health Care Daily: Health Care Subsidies and Work

Government provides most of its handouts based on income. And as one’s income rises, the handout diminishes and eventually ends.

What this winds up doing is jacking up the effective marginal tax rate when individuals start to climb the income ladder by working harder and smarter. That is, it penalizes hard work and success.

The health care reform agenda being pushed in Congress is not immune to this phenomenon, as the October 19 Wall Street Journal spells out in an editorial titled “ObamaCare’s Tax on Work.”

The editorial explained:

Central to Max Baucus's plan—assuming the public option stays dead—is an insurance "exchange," through which individuals and families could choose from a menu of standardized policies offered at heavily subsidized rates, provided that their employers do not offer coverage. The subsidies are distributed on a sliding scale based on income, and according to the Congressional Budget Office 23 million people will participate a decade from now, at a cost to taxpayers of some $461 billion.

Think about a family of four earning $42,000 in 2016, which is between 150% and 200% of the federal poverty level. CBO says a mid-level "silver" plan will cost about $14,700 in premiums, of which the family will pay $2,600—since the government would pay the other $12,100. If the family breadwinner (or breadwinners, because the subsidies are based on combined gross income) then gets a raise or works overtime and wages rise to $54,000, the subsidy drops to $9,900. That amounts to an implicit 34% tax on each additional dollar of income.

Or consider a single worker earning $20,600 and buying an individual "silver" policy with a premium at $5,000. Again according to CBO, if his income rises to $26,500, his subsidy plummets to $2,700 from $4,400 (including a cost-sharing subsidy that goes away). This is a 29% marginal tax; moving to other income levels yields increases in the neighborhood of 20% to 23% for both individuals and families. Jim Capretta, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, calculates that when combined with other policies like the Earned Income Tax Credit that also phase out, the effective marginal rate would rise to nearly 70% at twice the poverty level.

ObamaCare – making work more costly.

Raymond J. Keating
Chief Economist
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

No comments: