Health reform season kicked off this week with a meeting between President Obama and 24 Senate Democrats at the White House in preparation for congressional hearings and debate on health care in the weeks ahead.
Obama declared: “So we can’t afford to put this off, and the dedicated public servants who are gathered here today understand that and they are ready to get going, and this window between now and the August recess I think is going to be the make-or-break period. ”
At issue is how best to use the $250 billion plus pot of money that could result from taxing the value of employer-provided health insurance. Currently, health insurance provided by the employer to workers is free of income tax. When Senator McCain suggested eliminating tax-free employer-provided health insurance and replacing it with an individual tax credit to be used for health insurance purchases from any company, Obama accused him of raising taxes.
Now, according to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, one of the attendees at the White House meeting, President Obama is open to ending the tax break—without substituting an alternative individual tax credit—in order to finance health care reform. Removal of the tax exclusion would break Obama’s campaign promise not to raise taxes on Americans making less than $250,000 per year.