Members of the U.S. House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee are debating the merits of enacting tax breaks for individuals who buy private insurance, which would put them on equal tax footing with employers who purchase insurance for their employees.
The committee held hearings in late September on ways to overhaul the U.S. health system amid the nation’s current economic crunch.
“By equalizing the tax treatment, we can give millions of Americans in the individual market the ability to purchase quality health insurance,” said Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) at the hearing.
‘Pressing’ Need for Reform
“It is exciting that the idea of removing the tax prejudice against individual insurance is getting a hearing in the Congressional committees,” said John R. Graham, director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco.
“The only way to make a serious dent in the number of uninsured is to give individuals the same tax break that corporations get when they buy health benefits” for their employees, Graham continued. “That way, when people change jobs or lose jobs, they will not be automatically guaranteed to lose their health insurance.
“I recommend that the committees consider a universal tax credit of $2,500 per individual, or $5,000 per family, and change the tax code so that the value of currently employer-based health benefits is added to household income,” Graham added.
“At this time, when so many Americans are at risk of losing their jobs, the necessity of reform is pressing, so that we do not also see an unnecessary increase in the number of uninsured,” Graham said.
Dr. Sanjit Bagchi ([email protected]) writes from India.