- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Forty million Americans started paying higher taxes last weekend because of Obamacare. That’s enough to make anyone feel ill, but it’s only a start.

Obamacare eventually will impose nearly two dozen new or higher taxes on the American public, according to Americans for Tax Reform, which calls the new rules that took effect Jan. 1 the “medicine cabinet tax.” This penalty hits many everyday items in the ordinary household. Until now, Americans could use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) to pay, pretax, not just for major medical care and prescription drugs but also for nonprescription, over-the-counter medicines. Experts say such basic treatments save money in the long run by helping avoid expensive surgery and hospitalization down the road.

Obamacare disallows this use of HSAs and FSAs. Basic aspirin, laxatives, antihistamines, decongestants, antacids: None of them will be covered by self-controlled, self-savings plans favored by millions of middle-class families. The problem is worse for FSAs because funds can’t be carried from one year to the next, meaning any cash left at year’s end is forfeited by the saver and taxed by the government. This will prove to be an expensive and unsuccessful remedy for the nation’s health care woes. If people can’t use these monies for off-the-shelf cold and flu treatments and will lose any balance that’s left unused, there’s a greater chance the sick will ask doctors for pricey prescription drugs even for minor ailments.

Over the weekend, HSA taxes were increased from 10 percent to 20 percent for early withdrawals. In subsequent years, Obamacare will raise taxes on medical devices such as wheelchairs and expensive asthma inhalers, high-cost health plans, Blue Cross/Blue Shield policies and charitable hospitals. Meanwhile, President Obama hasn’t lifted a finger to make good on his vows to lower taxes elsewhere while forcing through new life for the death tax in return for a deal to extend the George W. Bush tax cuts. For example, Mr. Obama claimed he would like to cut high tax rates on corporate income, but there is no relief of the kind anywhere in sight.

Despite Mr. Obama’s incessant promises to the contrary, those burdened by these higher taxes include millions of couples who make less than $250,000 annually. Saturday’s taxes deter the use of preventive medicine, the opposite of what the president pledged to do through his government takeover of health care. This all adds evidence to the conclusion that the government leviathan, not the health of individual Americans, is Obamacare’s real beneficiary.