USW Local 9477 Steelworker calls tax unfair at US Capitol Press Event
WASHINGTON, December 10 – The AFL-CIO leadership, the USW and other unions joined Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today in calling for the elimination of a provision in the Senate health reform bill which would tax some health insurance plans.
“Imposing an excise tax on health insurance plans would be a disaster for millions of middle class Americans,” Sanders said. “Some of my colleagues would have you believe that the tax in the Senate bill only falls on ‘Cadillac’ health care plans, but the truth is that the plans this bill will tax are more like Chevrolets.”
At a US Capitol press event, USW LU 9477 Jim Huber speaks out against the proposed tax on workers’ health plans, while US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) stands behind the Baltimore steelworker after announcing an amendment to strike the provision from the Senate-introduced bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
USW Local 9477 Baltimore Steelworker Jim Huber, employed at Severstal’s Sparrows Point steel mill, gave voice to the union’s opposition to the proposed tax on workers’ health plans at press event led by Sen. Sanders at the U.S. Capitol. “We don’t need any more taxes on the working class,” Huber declared. “It’s just unfair.”
USW LU 9477 Jim Huber gives voice at a US Capitol press event Dec. 9, 2009, opposing a proposed tax on workers’ health plans. Huber is a steelworker at the Severstal Sparrows Point mill in Baltimore.
AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker also spoke out at the event, saying: “There’s a right way and a wrong way to pay for health care reform. Our message to the Senate is clear: A tax on working families is the wrong way.”
Sanders has introduced an amendment to strike this provision from the Senate-introduced Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The US House passed version of a health reform bill doesn’t impose a tax on workers’ health plans.
“Imposing a tax on health benefits while working to ensure that all Americans have good health benefits isn’t just illogical, it’s bad policy,” added Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a co-sponsor of Sanders’ amendment. “We want Americans to have dental coverage. We want Americans to have vision coverage. We cannot then penalize Americans that already do.” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has also co-sponsored the amendment.
The so-called “Cadillac” health insurance plans in fact can have premiums around $8,500 for an individual plan and $23,000 for a family plan.
According to Mercer, one of the largest employer consulting firms in the country, this tax would hit one in five health insurance plans by 2016. The Communication Workers of America (CWA) has estimated that this would cost families with a Federal Employee Health Benefits Blue Cross/Blue Shield standard plan with dental and vision benefits an average of $2,000 per year over the 10 year course of this bill, and individuals with the same plan can average $1,600 a year over the same period. As health care costs continue to rise, the tax will hit more and more health care plans. By 2019, it will burden one in three.
Sanders said, “The House bill includes a surtax on the wealthiest people in this country to pay for health care reform. It would raise $460 billion over 10 years, with a surcharge on the top three tenths of 1 percent of taxpayers. An overwhelming majority of Americans support it: according to a recent poll by USA Today, 59 percent support the House tax on the wealthy.”
Sanders, the USW’s Huber and the AFL-CIO executive vice president were joined at the news conference by Congressman Joe Courtney (D-Ct.); Larry Cohen, CWA President; Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association; Valerie Castle-Stanley, AT&T call center worker and CWA member from southwestern Virginia; and Gary Willett, a Giant Food warehouse worker and member of Teamster Local 730 in Washington, D.C.