Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor
Affordable Care Act deemed constitutional by Supreme Court
A source’s clarification
Danny Westneat misrepresented my quote in his July 1 column. The Supreme Court ruled the penalty for not having health-care insurance is a tax. The amount to be collected under this penalty tax is unknown.
However, the law is constitutional and therefore, the funding of the Affordable Care Act [ACA] is now one of the largest tax increases in the history of the country. At least $500 to $600 billion will be collected in new taxes.
Westneat refuted the size of the tax by citing Politifact, a website that called the tax increase a “pants-on-fire” lie. Politifact tries to be scientific by comparing the new tax amount with the size of the economy in 2019. Unfortunately, the data Politifacts uses comes from the Congressional Budget Office [CBO] and was based on pre-2008 estimates of economic growth. The CBO does not account for the severe recession we have experienced or our slow economic recovery.
The new taxes on insurance companies, drug manufacturers and medical-device makers will be passed on to anyone who uses health care in the United States.
This is not a “big lie” as Westneat writes, but is the reality of the Affordable Care Act.
— Roger Stark, health-care analyst, Washington Policy Center, Redmond
596 pages need to be read
Enough is being publicized about how millions of people who don’t have health insurance will have it under the Obama health-care plan, much of which will be paid for by the government (taxpayers).
Very little has been said about how the government intends to come up with the billions of dollars it will take to fund this program. Much of this is buried in the 596-page bill; I haven’t read it and I doubt many people have. I have read statements from sources that have read it, however, that say if you put it all together, it will amount to the biggest tax increase in our country’s history.
One obscure item in The Times, under “Medicare payroll tax” states: “Increases Medicare payroll tax on couples making more than $250,000 and individuals making $200,000; adds a new tax of 3.8 percent on income from investments.”
What isn’t said is how much of an increase in Medicaid payroll tax and what are they talking about with the 3.8 percent tax on investment income? Investment income is interest (already taxed at your income tax rate), dividends (already taxed at rates depending on income), capital gains (already taxed at rates depending on income) and municipal-bond tax-free income (not subject to federal tax).
If no action is taken by the Legislature, dividends and capital gains will be taxed at the regular federal-income tax rate beginning next year. I also understand that there is a new tax on real-estate sales for couples making over $250,000 and individuals making $200,000.
It would be interesting to know how many other tax increases that have no direct connection to health care are buried in the 596 page document.
— James Lowndes, Renton
Changing our health-care system
Oh, it was a very, very good thing! I cried when I read the morning paper; a victory for Obama, for the country and for the Democratic Party.
We have the worst health-care system of any developed country. People in France, etc., never worry about whether they can pay the doctor, they’re covered by national health insurance. It is so wrong that poor people or people with little money can die of the same thing that a rich person has because the rich person can go to some fancy hospital and spend a million bucks taking care of that condition.
If Mitt Romney happens to win the White House and does as he says — end Obamacare — this country will never have health care because some people don’t want to see a decent health-care system for its citizens.
When President Clinton tried to get it passed, Congress killed it. Today, I talked to a sales clerk that didn’t know, as a lot of Americans don’t, that France and other developed countries have health care. This plan (Affordable Care Act) is for the citizens of this country; it has a lot of things that can be tweaked, but if we lose it, it will be gone forever.
—Gary Todd, Duvall
The Times has published two “opinions” recently by local doctors praising the Supreme Court decision on “Obamacare” [“A physician’s perspective,” Northwest Voices, July 1, and “Looking forward,” Northwest Voices, seattletimes.com, June 30].
That surprised me since nearly every doctor that I know, personally and professionally, thinks this legislation is nothing short of a disaster both functionally and financially. So I Googled the two contributors and guess what? They both work for the UW; a fine medical facility no question, but I can’t help but wonder if their opinions might be different if they were in private practice.
— Jennifer Stahl, Sammamish
Post office and health-care comparisons
A recent letter writer likened the Affordable Care Act to the post office [“Just like the postal service,” Northwest Voices, seattletimes.com, June 29]. I would like to take a closer look at that analogy.
For 45 cents, the post office will pick up a letter at your home in Anchorage and deliver it to an address in Miami. FedEx will perform the same service for $45. The postmaster general makes $264,000 a year. The CEO of FedEx makes $8,670,000 per yer. Evidently, there is some sort of correlation between the CEO’s salary and the cost of the services delivered.
America’s health-care system is among the most expensive in the world, and the CEOs of the insurance and pharmaceutical companies have some of the highest salaries in the world. I wonder if there is some sort of correlation here as well.
— Howard Hance, Snohomish
Plain-language descriptions, please
The Sunday Times article by Carol M.Ostrom [“Health-care leaders: Ruling no cure for spiraling costs,” seattletimes.com, June 30] was totally useless to people who are trying to understand what the Supreme Court approved.
The Affordable Care Act [ACA] needs plain-language statements of its positive provisions for Americans, not confusing articles about implementation and quotes from providers. [“Health-care leaders: Ruling no cure for spiraling costs,” seattletimes.com, June 30.] There seems to be a media conspiracy to confuse the public and keep average people from understanding the ACA benefits.
Some important current and future ACA medical health provisions include: Coverage for children to age 26 on parents’ insurance; health-care providers cannot turn down people for pre-existing conditions, nor can they eject people who develop expensive illnesses; insurers must spend 80 percent of premiums for health care and keep only 20 percent for administration; and expensive medicines will be mostly paid by federal Medicaid medcaid funds, thus not pauperizing Americans.
The ACA will gradually establish a real insurance program instead of the “cherry picking” current plans. All kinds of “freeloaders” will have to pay premiums, thus paying the ACA costs. This is not a tax.
I hope The Times will print a front-page, plain-language description of the ACA provisions.
— Russell R. Fosmire, Seattle
The largest tax increase
In a recent editorial column, Seattle Times writer Danny Westneat [“‘Tax’ attack goes beyond usual spin,” NWSunday, June 1] contends that an assertion that the health-care tax is the largest tax increase in U.S. history, is false.
If the total cost of health-care premiums paid by or on behalf of something like 34 million people directly to insurance companies are not taxes, what are they? Voluntary purchases? 34 million people, times $400 monthly health-care insurance premiums per month, times 12 months per year, equals more than $163 billion per year.
What difference does it make whether a person pays the government the premium and the government purchases the health-insurance contract, or the same person, with or without subsidies from the government, purchases the contract from the insurance company directly?
Not only is the “penalty” a tax, but the entire cost of buying health-care insurance for 34 million people is a tax.
And don’t all insurance premiums paid by everyone in the United States become essentially a tax on and after Jan.uary 1, 2014, rather than merely a voluntary purchase?
Did Danny Westneat consider any of this when he asserted that this is not the biggest tax increase ever? The answer to that question has to be “no.”
— Eric Tronsen, Seattle