Obama on the Record: Healthcare Reform Town Hall

And, you know, the group that actually understands this best is folks who are members of unions because — and the reason is, what happens? You guys go into negotiations, and your employer, even if they’re well-meaning, even if they want to cooperate with the union, they say, “Look, guys, I can’t afford to give you a raise — I can’t afford to raise the hourly wage because look at what’s happened to my health care rates.” And your whole negotiation ends up being how much more of a health care burden are you going to have to carry when you thought those benefits were already locked in.

So that’s why health care reform is so important even if you’ve got health insurance, because it is taking money out of your pocket and it’s leaving a lot of people in very dire straits. So, all right? (Applause.) Okay.

This young lady right here. There’s a gentleman who is coming with a microphone.

Q Hello, Mr. President. I’m Dr. Diana Lee Macron (ph). And I have a question. The Republicans and some Democrats want to tax health care benefits. Using one of the local Council of Smaller Enterprise plans, an individual male would pay $1,500 at the age of 24; $5,200 at age 50; and almost $10,000 at age 60 for the same plan. For a female employee, it would cost $3,300 at age 24, and $6,400 at age 50. Family plans are more.

A tax credit can only benefit those who make enough money to use a tax credit. Most people don’t need a tax credit. How would you make the taxing of benefits equitable to older and female workers?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me — just to make sure I understand your question — or I’ll try to answer what I think your question was. First of all, in terms of taxing benefits, I said I oppose the taxing of health care benefits that people are already receiving, so that’s not a proposal that I’m supportive of. (Applause.)

There is being discussed in the Senate Finance Committee the fact that some folks have Cadillac plans, meaning — let’s — just to give you an example, the average member of Congress’s plan, I think, is somewhere — it’s either $13,000 or $17,000 or $14,000; it’s somewhere in that range. So that’s a pretty good plan. That’s what members of Congress get.

Now, what the Senate Finance Committee has been saying is maybe when you get to a $25,000 plan — so one that’s a lot more expensive and a lot fancier than the one that even members of Congress get — maybe at that point what you should do is you should sort of cap the exclusion, the tax deduction, that is available so that we’re discouraging these really fancy plans that end up driving up costs. That’s the debate that’s been taking place, and I think that is at least — I haven’t signed on to that approach, but I think it’s a legitimate debate to have.

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