On the January 25 edition of the CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric echoed the Bush administration claim that its proposed "tax break" would "help" the uninsured "buy" health insurance, without noting that the plan would reportedly do little to help many of those who currently lack health insurance. In fact, even the Bush administration has reportedly stated that the tax deduction would help only an estimated 3 million to 5 million of those currently uninsured to be able to purchase health insurance, likely leaving more than 40 million people without insurance.
According to the White House's fact sheet on the proposal: "Under The President's Proposal, Families With Health Insurance Will Not Pay Income Or Payroll Taxes On The First $15,000 In Compensation And Singles Will Not Pay Income Or Payroll Taxes On The First $7,500." Along with the creation of this tax deduction, employer provided health insurance would then be taxed as income.
Couric stated that "those without health coverage would get a tax break to help them buy it." But, according to the administration's own estimates, the income and payroll tax deductions would appear to cause only a small fraction of the uninsured to obtain health insurance. The Bush administration estimates that the tax deduction would help "upwards of 3 million or more" of those currently uninsured to obtain insurance. According to the most recent Census Bureau statistics, approximately 46.5 million people are uninsured. In addition, the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, which describes itself as a private research "foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system," reported that "[a]bout 95 percent of the uninsured would not benefit substantially from the tax deductions" because "more than 55 percent of the uninsured have such low incomes that they pay no taxes, while another 40 percent are in the 10 to 15 percent tax bracket."
As Media Matters for America has noted, The Washington Post pointed out on January 25 that tax deductions are worth more to the affluent: "Wealthier families who benefit from the deduction would get a much greater value than less-affluent families. The $15,000 deduction would be worth $5,250 to a family taxed at 35 percent but only $1,500 to one taxed in the 10 percent bracket."
From the January 25 edition of the CBS Evening News:
COURIC: President Bush was in Missouri today, talking up the health insurance plan he laid out in his State of the Union speech. The president wants to even the playing field for those who get insurance through work and those who don't. Under his plan, people with generous health coverage provided by their employers would be taxed on some of those benefits, while those without health coverage would get a tax break to help them buy it.
While his plan is debated in Washington, many states are trying their own approach, and Massachusetts is leading the pack.