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The Salt Lake Tribune - Hatch and Matheson: Repeal Obamacare tax

Op-Ed

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By Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Representative Jim Matheson (D-Utah)

Last weekend marked the three-year anniversary of passage of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

From the earliest discussions and drafts of this bill, we both had significant concerns about its direction and what it sought to achieve.

We know the escalating cost of health care in our country is unsustainable, and this should be the starting point of any legitimate discussion of health care reform.

Since 2002, premiums have increased by 97 percent -- three times faster than wages, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Health care costs affect every part of our economy and put us at a real disadvantage, both today and for future generations.

When economists make federal debt projections, the biggest driver is health care expenditures. Unfortunately, Obamacare failed to address the rising costs of care, which is a key reason why we voted against the law.

This brings us to the question where do we go from here? On the broadest level, both of us have advocated for repeal of Obamacare, and are working to craft health care reforms that start with addressing cost and build a plan for the future that is sustainable and inclusive.

Short of outright repeal, we should look at what can be done today to alleviate some of the negative impacts the law will have on consumers.

Specifically, a $100 billion health insurance tax that will be applied to insurance premiums is scheduled to go into effect next year and we have recently introduced legislation to fully repeal this provision.

Without passage of our legislation, the health insurance tax will affect what are called "fully insured" plans. These plans are used by 87 percent of small businesses to purchase coverage for employees.

These businesses are our grass-roots job creators, the engines of our economy. They will either be forced to pass on the costs of this tax to their employees, who will then pay more out of their pockets for health care, or eliminate jobs to make up the difference.

The actuarial firm Oliver Wyman projected premium costs would increase by 3-4 percent as a result of the tax. The National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small employers, predicted that between 146,000 and 262,000 jobs could be lost by 2022 as a direct result of the cost increases associated with this tax.

If these added costs are passed on to workers who are employed by a small business -- as are about half of all Americans -- it would also result in about $5,000 less in take-home pay over the next decade, according to a former director of the Congressional Budget Office. The tax doesn't just hit working families. Seniors in Medicare Advantage plans will also see their premiums rise due to this tax.

The cost of health care is already on the rise as a result of the health law, which makes it even more urgent that we act before the end of this year to stop the tax from causing health care costs to rise even more, putting our economy at risk.

We voted against President Obama's health law because we think Utahns deserve a health care system that doesn't place our country further in debt, that doesn't threaten the economic security of our nation, and that doesn't tax one group of Americans to subsidize another.

On this third anniversary of the law, let's take a common-sense step forward and repeal this new tax on American families.

Orrin Hatch is a Republican member of the U.S. Senate from Utah. Jim Matheson is a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing Utah's 4th Congressional District.


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