WHAT'S wrong with this picture?
House Minority Leader and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi from Californiais worth at least $16.3 million personally, makes $125,000 a yearand gets tax-free health insurance through the federal government.Yet workers who buy their own health insurance are the only peoplewho don't get a tax break if and when they buy health insurance.
Many of these workers are landscapers, factory workers, manuallaborers, delivery workers and early retirees who struggle to makeends meet. Most of them are also the faces of California's 18.3percent uninsured population, part of the nation's 45 millionuninsured, because they work for firms that do not offer healthinsurance.
The tax code has favored employer-provided health insurance forthe last 60 years, and in that time, this important benefit hasenabled most Americans to get health insurance from their employers.
But as the cost of health insurance increases, many employers aredropping coverage, leaving millions of Americans to buy their owncoverage. This hits the minority community the hardest. Latinos andAfrican-Americans account for more than 50 percent of the uninsuredpopulation. One out of every three Latinos is uninsured, as is aboutone out of every five African-Americans.
Workers who buy their own health insurance are the only peoplewho don't get a tax break if they buy health insurance. This year,employer-provided and self-employed health insurance customers willenjoy a $155 billion tax break. It is fundamentally unfair thatworkers are discriminated against by the federal tax code in theirpurchase of health insurance simply because they buy a policyoutside of their place of employment.
Rep. Pelosi is willing to take tax-free health insurance whilemillions of uninsured Latinos and other workers suffer without thetax-free benefit she receives.
But Congress could pass a bill now that would provide relief toworkers. This bill, which sponsors call 'Fair Care for theUninsured,' would provide money for the purchase of health insurance- $1,000 for an individual, $2,000 for a couple and $3,000 for afamily - each year.
Fair Care would correct the discrimination built into the taxcode that currently gives unlimited tax benefits to those who gethealth insurance through their employer, but no tax benefit to theindividual purchaser.
These tax credits would be refundable, so that workers who don'towe taxes can receive the credit to put toward health insurance.They could also be advanced to workers up front so that they wouldhave money to buy health insurance.
If Congress passed Fair Care, 18.6 million uninsured people wouldbe eligible for health insurance, according to a study by FiscalAssociates.
Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress think Fair Care isa good idea and support the legislation. The Latino Coalition andother national groups representing Hispanics, small employers andfarmers support Fair Care.
Sadly, millionaire Rep. Pelosi, who already gets tax-free healthinsurance financed by taxpayers, does not support Fair Care. As aresult, she is depriving millions of working Americans the sameaccess to care that she enjoys.