Colorado Public News interviewed the seven Colorado members of the U.S. House of Representatives about provisions in the health care law that are prompting their votes for – or against — repeal. Then we checked whether their arguments are based in fact. Colorado’s four Republican members voted for repeal, and the three Democrats voted against. Here’s what we found:
Surprising bipartisan support: Democrats Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis along with Republicans Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner support ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions can obtain insurance. Another Republican, Scott Tipton, mentioned his concern for children in this situation. The current health care law includes this provision, but insurance companies say they can afford it only if large numbers of Americans are required to buy insurance – and that provision could be thrown out by the Supreme Court. That would leave coverage for pre-existing conditions in trouble.
- Good for them: No one claimed the health care bill will send Americans to jail for failing to buy health insurance. The penalty will be a tax that would help pay for health care for uninsured people, or higher bills paid by the insured.
- Good for them: No one mentioned death panels, a widely discredited myth. Polls say large numbers of Americans still believe this. A new provision allows Medicare to pay doctors to discuss with their over-65 patients what type of health care they want at the end of their life. Some people believe this will lead to pressure on patients to veto expensive care when they are dying.
Housing tax – not exactly: Tipton said the health law enacts a 3.25 percent tax on the sale of homes valued at more than $250,000.
- That is inaccurate. Instead, starting in 2013, the law enacts a 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income, such as profits from the sale of a home. But the tax does not apply to houses with sale prices of more than $250,000 – it applies only to profits of more than $250,000 for individuals or $500,000 for couples. Also, this tax applies only to people with modified adjusted gross incomes of more than $200,000 if they’re single, or $250,000 if married filing jointly.
- Farms, ranches, and properties used for businesses are exempt. Estimates are that 4 percent of home sales will be taxed.
- AARP explanation: http://www.aarp.org/health/health-care-reform/info-10-2010/hcr_explained__home_sales.htm
- More detailed Kiplinger explanation: http://www.kiplinger.com/columns/ask/archive/new-tax-on-windfall-homesale-profits-.html
Cost of exchanges: Gardner said local officials told him creating the health insurance exchanges will cost the states a fortune, and this is the largest-ever unfunded mandate.
- Lorez Meinhold, Colorado’s official in charge of creating the exchanges, says this cost is entirely covered by the federal government for the next three years. After that, the exchanges should be up and running, and they must be self-sustaining.
Explosion of bureaucracy: Tipton said the law would create 24-28 new agencies. His staff cited an article that estimates there will be 180 new programs, boards, panels, etc.
Gardner cited a similar concern for bureaucracy, holding up a complex organization chart with elaborate lines and ovals prepared by the Republicans.
Medicaid costs: Gardner’s staff said he also was concerned about the increased cost to cash-strapped states if a provision takes effect that would allow more people to enroll in Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor. He cited an article from the conservative Heritage Foundation saying 33 Republican governors want this provision repealed.
- The health care law does make millions more low-income people eligible to get insurance through Medicaid, beginning in 2014. It’s one of the highlights of the bill for Democrats and one of its biggest problems for Republicans.
- However, there are disagreements over how many people will sign up. The law would allow anyone earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level to be eligible, but Colorado already provides Medicaid to children under 6 and pregnant women at this level so it’s unclear how many others would qualify and actually sign up.
- A Kaiser Family Foundation study calculated that in Colorado, 37 percent of the estimated increased cost of Medicad will be covered by the federal government, and 1.8 percent by Colorado taxpayers. See page 10 of the study for the Colorado costs, and page 11 for a higher estimate.
Sharp disagreement on overall cost: Democrats, citing the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, say the law will reduce the federal deficit by $230 billion between 2010 and 2019.
Bipartisan agreement on reversing 1099 requirement: Republicans Coffman, Tipton and Gardner and Democrat Perlmutter all object to the 1099 provision meant to improve tax collection and help pay for health care. It requires all businesses to report purchases of more than $600, even from Walmart, to the IRS on Form 1099.
- Even though there is bipartisan support for repealing this provision, efforts late last year failed because there is no agreement on how to replace the lost revenue the measure is designed to recoup. There’s plenty of time left to figure this out though—the provision doesn’t kick in until the 2012 tax year.
Sharp disagreement on jobs: The very title of the Republican repeal bill calls the health care law “job-killing,” while Democrats say it will add jobs. Tipton’s staff cited a Republican list of new taxes in the health care law as his reason for calling the bill job-killing.
A Republican study says 650,000 to 1.6 million jobs will be lost.
- FactCheck.org finds fault with this Republican analysis.
- Democrats argue that despite higher costs on businesses, the health care law could increase the number of jobs in the United States by about 250,000 to 400,000 per year over the coming decade. The figures come from the Center for American Progress.
What do you think? Join the conversation in the comments.