September 22, 2009

Taxing on Your Health

Justin Katz

Periodically, I catch an episode of The Mentalist, in which a non-cop, always-right, psychiatrist-type character assists the police with their cases. One episode featured the actor who played Chip on Kate and Allie, who — if I may indulge in a spoiler — played a murderer who had spent years posing as a mentally handicapped fixture of the town.

The memorable moment came when the mentalist had figured the case out (based on the not-so-subtle clue that Chip had a well-worn copy of Moby Dick in his trailer) and was trying to draw him out of his facade in the interrogation room. "Come on. I see you," he said. That's how one begins to feel about long-running political debates.

Come on. We can be honest, now. Is there anybody who doesn't anticipate where this is going?

The tax [on "Cadillac" healthcare benefits] is meant to raise more than a quarter of the $774 billion needed to pay for the Baucus plan. But, just as much, the tax is intended to discourage the overly generous coverage that many experts say has helped fuel the country's reckless spending on medical care.

As it turns out, though, many smaller fish would get caught in Baucus' tax net. The supposedly Cadillac insurance policies include some that cover many of the nation's firefighters, coal miners and older employees at small businesses -- a whole gamut that runs from janitors to college professors, from union shops to Main Street entrepreneurs.

The net will catch more people than initially explained. Folks will begin taking their pay and benefits in a different form. Loopholes will emerge. And the government will have to find a way to come up with even more money to supplement the tax-the-rich shortfall. It's too obvious not to be incorporated into the Democrats' plan, even if only as a problem to address later, once the deal is sealed.

We need a national political mentalist to coax our leaders through the facade of their double-speak.

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"Folks will begin taking their pay and benefits in a different form."

I saw this when I worked fro an international corporation. I received that British "company paper" and noted a few differences. One was that while bonuses and incentives were frequent, they were never paid in cash. They were paid in "goods" such as Jaguar cars and "white goods" for the home.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at September 23, 2009 5:18 PM
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