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Working Minnesotans Speak Out on Health Care Reform Tax

January 14, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The clock is ticking as a final version of the federal health care reform bill is just weeks away. Thousands of Minnesotans put in their "two cents' worth" on the topic Wednesday, during a "call-in" day. The Senate's proposed 40 percent tax on health care plans, without regard to income, was a top concern.

Steve Hunter, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, says he understands, because taxing health care benefits could penalize those who have negotiated good benefits in exchange for less pay.

"We think there are more progressive ways to pay for the bill - primarily by taxing the ultra-wealthy, those people making millions of dollars in today's economy."

Under the Senate bill, the federal government would impose a 40 percent tax on the value of employer-sponsored health coverage exceeding $8,000 a year - or $23,000 for a family - without regard to family income. It's a tax that could hit more than 30 million workers, and it's supported by President Obama. That tax is not part of the House version of health care reform.

Hunter says health care reform needs to be about helping working families, not taxing them to pay for the uninsured.

"At the end of the day, we want a bill that reduces cost and ensures that people have access to health insurance - and that we find a way to pay for it, other than taxing people who have health insurance."

Final negotiations are underway in Congress. The president hopes to see a bill on his desk in the next few weeks.

Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MN