Silver Bullet? Key Congressman Says Dems Can Build A Majority With Excise-Tax Exemptions

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January 13, 2010 1:23 p.m.

The big hurdle between Democrats and success on health care reform bill is the question of whether the wealthy Americans will pay for the cost of the bill, or whether some middle class Americans will pay some of the price through an excise tax on high-end employer health care benefits. Now, one leading House Democrat says that the seeds of a solution may have been planted.

As I first reported yesterday, one idea gaining traction in negotiations between Congressional leaders, union officials, and the White House is that collectively bargained benefit plans could be exempted from the tax. According to Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ), who chairs the health subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee, that could be enough to build a majority for health care reform.

“It would be a way to lessen impact of the so-called excise tax,” Andrews said. “I think we could build a consensus around that idea–a majority around that idea.”

There are other ways to mitigate the impact of the tax, too. And the revenue lost by modifying it would have to be replaced by new sources. But it’s becoming more clear this is the route Democrats are going to have to take to reach accord on the big outstanding issue in health care reform.

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