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During Fox News' post-speech coverage of the State of the Union address on January 23, Fox News Washington bureau managing editor Brit Hume used the phrase "gold-plated policies" to refer to those employer-provided health insurance policies that would be taxed under President Bush's new health care proposal, but he did not identify it as the phrase Bush used as well during his weekly radio address to characterize those plans.
In his January 20 radio address, Bush described his new proposal:
BUSH: One of the most promising ways to make private health insurance more affordable is by reforming the Federal tax code. Today, the tax code unfairly penalizes people who do not get health insurance through their job. It unwisely encourages workers to choose overly expensive, gold-plated plans. The result is that insurance premiums rise, and many Americans cannot afford the coverage they need.
We need to fix these problems, and one way to do so is to treat health insurance more like home ownership. The current tax code encourages home ownership by allowing you to deduct the interest on your mortgage from your taxes. We can reform the tax code, so that it provides a similar incentive for you to buy health insurance. So in my State of the Union Address next Tuesday, I will propose a tax reform designed to help make basic private health insurance more affordable -- whether you get it through your job or on your own.
As Media Matters for America noted, Bush's plan has already drawn opposition from congressional Democrats who claim it will raise taxes for middle-class workers. Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, called Bush's proposal "a bad policy," adding, "We are trying to bring tax relief to the middle class. The president is trying to increase their tax liability. This proposal is inconsistent with what the majority is seeking in the House and the Senate."
In his January 22 column (subscription required), New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that Bush is proposing "a tax increase" on "workers who, he thinks, have too much health insurance" -- those with the so-called "gold-plated policies." According to Krugman, this term is misleading:
While proposing this high-end tax break, Mr. Bush is also proposing a tax increase -- not on the wealthy, but on workers who, he thinks, have too much health insurance. The tax code, he said, ''unwisely encourages workers to choose overly expensive, gold-plated plans. The result is that insurance premiums rise, and many Americans cannot afford the coverage they need.''
Again, wow. No economic analysis I'm aware of says that when Peter chooses a good health plan, he raises Paul's premiums. And look at the condescension. Will all those who think they have ''gold plated'' health coverage please raise their hands?
According to press reports, the actual plan is to penalize workers with relatively generous insurance coverage. Just to be clear, we're not talking about the wealthy; we're talking about ordinary workers who have managed to negotiate better-than-average health plans.
From Fox News' post-speech coverage of the State of the Union address on January 23:
MORTON M. KONDRACKE (Roll Call executive editor): Every Democratic official that I've heard quoted -- or every member of Congress -- has been very negative about this idea. [Rep.] Pete Stark [D-CA], who's the chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee that does health care, said that it's DOA -- dead on arrival.
HUME: Yeah. He said that he won't even hold hearings on it.
HUME: And [Sen.] Harry Reid [D-NV], the Senate majority leader, has been critical of it. And practically across the board it's been dismissed as a -- as something that helps people who have insurance, punishes some people who have insurance --
HUME: Who have gold-plated policies.
KONDRACKE: Exactly. And, well, that includes union members, who are a major constituency of the Democrats.