- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Taxing employer-provided health care plans is a tempting pot of money for Democrats looking for ways to fund an overhaul of the nation’s health care system, but the public isn’t buying it.

One of the key Senate Democrats working on a reform plan said even taxing just the most expensive plans used by wealthier Americans isn’t popular

“If you go to the public and ask them what they think, they don’t like it,” said Sen. Kent Conrad, North Dakota Democrat and member of the Finance Committee, referring to polling done recently.

“We’re looking at other options because of what we see when you go out and ask people across the country.”

The compilation of four polls, discussed at a Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, found that at least 59 percent of the public opposes taxing benefits .

Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the committee, has said he doesn’t want to see benefits taxed completely but is in favor of taxing the most expensive plans.

Currently, employer plans are not taxed.

Congress is entering its final legislative period before the August recess, and leaders in both parties said they plan to have a bill passed before they leave Washington.

Congress may get some needed momentum on Wednesday as hospital trade groups are expected to announce at the White House that they will voluntarily cut costs.

The pledge, expected to amount to $155 billion over the next decade, comes after similar concessions by drugmakers and the health care industry.

Two Senate committees continued to work on separate plans Tuesday. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee continued marking up its reform plan, while the Finance Committee met again.

Showing his interest in a bipartisan bill despite the Democratic caucus’s new 60-person majority, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he’s planning to meet Wednesday with a group of four Republicans who’ve been involved in health care negotiations.

“I look forward to that meeting, and so I - I think that we don’t want to do it alone,” the Nevada Democrat said.

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