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MILLER: Buried by Obamacare bills

House moves to cancel the stealth health care tax hikes

- The Washington Times - Monday, June 4, 2012

President Obama promised his health care reform law would save money and reduce costs. It wasn't true then; it's certainly not true now. Lower- and middle-class Americans already have seen their premiums go up. They feel the pinch from taxes on everything from a wheelchair to a bottle of aspirin. While waiting for the Supreme Court to rescue us from this disaster, Congress needs to provide relief.

The House of Representatives will vote Thursday on a bill that reduces health care costs by eliminating the sneaky Obamacare taxes. "This common-sense legislation has strong support from consumers, job creators and families who continue to be hit with higher costs because of Obamacare," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, Michigan Republican, told The Washington Times. "We hope to provide Americans with what they've long called for - lower costs and increased flexibility." The increases have had such a negative impact on the public that even some of the committee's Democrats voted in favor of changing their own law.

Next year, Obamacare will impose a 2.3 percent excise tax on manufacture or import of "medical devices." Democrats left it up to the Treasury Department to decide what qualifies as a medical device, but it could apply to things such as pacemakers, MRI machines, stents and even surgical masks. This tax, which was not advertised during the debate on Obamacare, will drive up everyone's medical costs. Conveniently, the tax hits after Election Day.

Americans looking for shelter from the ever-increasing burden are turning to flexible savings accounts (FSA) to pay for their health care. Yet even those were hit by the "medicine cabinet" tax that prohibited using tax-free funds to pay for over-the-counter medications since 2010.

Mr. Camp's legislation would end both of these taxes and reform FSAs so they are more valuable to consumers. Currently, the accounts are "use or lose," which means employees have to forfeit any unused funds back to their employers. The new plan would allow people to cash out the leftover money, up to $500, which would be treated as taxable income. Only about one-fifth of employees who are offered these tax-free plans use them, largely because of the fear of losing the money. This change would give more security to families trying to budget for higher health care costs.

Mr. Obama said at a private fundraiser in Chicago on Friday, "The health care bill that we passed is pushing us in the right direction." The public doesn't agree. A Kaiser Health tracking poll released last week showed that those with a favorable view of the health care law dropped 5 points, to 37 percent, during the month of May. The House bill is a good interim step, but ultimately, the public needs to send someone to the White House who's committed to wiping the books clean of the health care takeover.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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