Press Room

Jan 25 2007

Dr. Coburn, Senator Martinez Introduce Legislation to Make Health Care More Affordable and Accessible

Legislation will give individuals same tax benefits as businesses

^(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Mel Martinez (R-FL) today introduced the Tax Equity and Affordability Act of 2007. The measure seeks to lower the cost and expand the availability of health insurance. The bill includes many of the reform proposals President Bush outlined in his State of the Union address such as establishing new tax breaks for individuals and families without employer-based health insurance. Joining Coburn and Martinez as co-sponsors were Senators Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Norm Coleman (R-MN), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL).

“We are on the cusp of a battle that may determine the future of health care in America. Everyone in America supports the concept of universal health care coverage. The important question is: Who will control it, government bureaucrats or consumers?^ Those who are advocating a government-run health plan are offering a naïve and destructive vision. American families deserve real choices and a fair market, not the counterfeit compassion of a utopian government-run health care system. This legislation will help us reverse our slide toward socialized medicine by putting patients back in charge of their health care dollars and decisions,” Dr. Coburn said, noting that the best available case studies indicate that single-payer socialized health care systems in places like Canada and the U.K. result in rationing and poor quality.

“This bill promotes universal access, market innovation, and fairness in the health care market by establishing an individual health care tax credit,” Dr. Coburn added. “There is no reason individuals should not enjoy the same tax benefits employers have received for decades.”

The federal tax code offers several health care tax breaks – totaling approximately $188.5 billion in federal revenues. Of that total last year, $126 billion went through employers for employee fringe benefits. The current system essentially creates a tax subsidy for wealthy Americans worth $2,680 while only $102 for the poorest Americans. The Tax Equity and Affordability Act of 2007 modernizes the tax treatment of health care to fit the needs of working Americans in the 21st century.

The Tax Equity and Affordability Act of 2007 would establish a new mechanism for the purchase of health insurance: refundable tax credits for working Americans enabling them to purchase their own private health care coverage. Low-income Americans would get $2,000 ($4,000 for families) and an income-based sliding scale would ensure that all Americans get a health tax benefit that mimics the benefit that employers benefit from through the exclusion.

The legislation limits the unlimited employer exclu­sion at $5,000 for self-only ($11,500 for family) employer coverage – as recommended by the Bi-Partisan Tax Reform Panel. This curbs the subsidization of so-called Cadillac health plans for wealthy Americans, producing enormous savings that will help finance access to private health coverage for all Americans. Workers, instead of their Human Resources department, could choose what kind of health care to buy. The plan promotes innovation and choice to stabilize skyrocketing health care costs of today’s broken system.

“By giving tax breaks equitably and directly to individuals for health care, we can ensure that patients and doctors, not government or insurance bureaucrats, will make decisions about their health care,” Dr. Coburn said. “This approach promotes ownership of health benefits and a truly transparent, market-based, and portable system. Allowing individuals to make choices about their health care unleashes the power of American innovation, which will provide better health care at a better price. One out of every five Oklahomans lacks health insurance. I have far more faith in the ability of Oklahomans to make health care choices instead of allowing Washington to make those choices for them.”

Senator Martinez said, “Health insurance should be affordable and accessible. There are more than 47 million Americans – including 4 million Floridians – who need, but are unable to purchase health insurance because of the cost. This proposal will make insurance more affordable for more people – including those who don’t have health insurance through an employer. The TEA Act promotes personal choice, ownership, and portability of health insurance, regardless of employment status.”

“This provides a more level playing field for taxpayers and their families who do not have access to employer-provided plans,” Martinez said. “These individuals deserve a health tax credit equal to the benefits enjoyed by workers whose employers provide health insurance. This act will go a long way toward insuring the more than 47 million Americans who are currently going without coverage.”

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