October 13, 2009

Crapo: One-Half Trillion In New Taxes, Penalties In Health Proposal

Committee-passed plan fails to address future costs in premiums and care

Washington, DC - Excessive costs, absence of legislative language, lack of complete scoring estimates and a misleading assessment about a government takeover of the nation's health system were among the reasons that Idaho Senator Mike Crapo voted "no" today as the Senate Finance Committee approved a health care reform measure. The Committee vote was 14 to 9, and the measure will now go before the full Senate, where Crapo said he'd continue to press for changes.

The bill, with a preliminary cost estimate by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of $829 billion over the next ten years, includes hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes, penalties and Medicare cuts, contains an unsustainable expansion of the Medicaid program, puts the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in charge of making sure that Americans carry health insurance, and leaves 25 million people uninsured.

During debate before the Finance Committee today, Crapo noted the health care draft fails to address the number one concern he has heard from Idahoans: it fails to lower health care costs. Instead, he said the bill cuts Medicare and raises payroll and income taxes to pay for a new entitlement program. "This plan raises a half-trillion dollars in new taxes on lower and middle income Americans yet still leaves 25 million people still uninsured," he said.

"If this misdirected measure were to become law, it would cut the Medicare Advantage program, which will result in millions of seniors losing benefits and coverage. We have only estimated budget scores, no effort to reduce health costs and no precise choices people can make about their health care. The American people will see this effort for what it is: the federal government taking control over their health care decisions while putting the nation more deeply into debt. Idahoans and many other Americans don't want this level of government interference in their lives, but that's what they'll get under this bill."

Throughout the last couple of weeks of debate, Crapo has offered several amendments to the draft measure to stop the tax increases that will be imposed through various components of the legislation, i.e., penalties on health savings accounts, on those who don't purchase mandated insurance and by raising the floor on tax deductions for health care expenses. He said he was disappointed by efforts to shut down debate and to ignore areas of agreement where Republicans and Democrats could find common ground. "We could not get past the partisanship to the issues we agree on-to control health costs, improve access to care and improve the quality of care."

Under questioning today from Crapo, the heads of the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) confirmed taxes would increase and spending would go up under the bill. They confirmed that a significant amount of those taxes would come from lower and middle income Americans. "The President's promise that the middle-class will not see any of their taxes increase 'by one dime' has been shown to be false, as excise taxes and cuts in exemptions will extract millions from lower and middle-income families," Crapo said. "States will face significant budget deficits to account for the millions of new people added to the already overburdened Medicaid program. The CBO analysis, like the language used in the draft legislation, is incomplete and the legislation does not fully address future medical costs and rising insurance premiums.

"I encourage Idahoans and Americans to study this process and these costs closely," Crapo said. "If we can't base health care reform on the principles of improved access and lowered costs, then we are looking at the wrong legislation."