JANUARY 24, 2007
5:10 PM

Steve Smith (202) 637-5018

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney on President Bush's Health Care Proposal

WASHINGTON - January 24 - President Bush is touring the nation, touting a health care proposal that only pretends to address our nation’s health care crisis, and actually would make it worse.

 The President’s proposal to make workers pay taxes on health benefits in order to pay for a new standard deduction will prompt employers to shift more costs onto workers or eliminate coverage altogether.

 At the same time, a tax- based approach to helping the uninsured doesn't work because many of the uninsured have too little income to buy health coverage on their own. They also won’t benefit from a deduction because they owe little or no taxes.

At a time when most Americans are struggling to pay for rising health care costs, the employer-based system is the last line of defense for working people. Two of every three Americans receive health insurance through their employer. Without a meaningful, comprehensive alternative, the shift from employer to individual responsibility will exacerbate the nation’s health care crisis and actually increase the number of uninsured and underinsured.

Under the President’s plan, younger and healthier workers would have more incentives to buy low-cost, bare-bones plans, leading to higher costs for older and less healthy workers who stay in more comprehensive coverage. And those more costly workers who remain in comprehensive plans take a double hit, since the arbitrary threshold means they’ll pay more in taxes, too.

America is the richest, most prosperous nation on earth. It’s a national disgrace that nearly 47 million Americans lack health insurance and millions more struggle to hold onto their coverage.

We need universal health coverage to ensure that every American has the security of knowing they can get affordable health care when they need it.