The Tax Attic with Jerry Coon

Jerry Coon, Enrolled Agent

Jerry Coon, Enrolled Agent

Everyone affected by health care reform

Health care reform may be the biggest issue currently confronting all of us. The troubles of the automobile industry are well-documented and their problems do affect each of us in some way.

My father was a GM retiree, so my mother’s survivor’s benefits may be directly affected by what is happening with GM. The demise of GM’s 36th Street plant has also meant the closing of various local suppliers. Many of my clients are out of work because of GM.

Not everyone, however, is directly affected by GM’s troubles. The decline of the housing industry, the collapse of the derivative products and the worldwide messiness that went with that debacle such as the corresponding banking institution failures and all of the foreclosure issues have caused heartburn among many taxpayers. Not everyone, however, is directly affected by the housing or banking industry issues.

By the same token, everyone, and I do mean everyone, is affected directly by how Congress deals with the health care reform issue. All of us, from the newest baby on the block to the oldest taxpayer in America, will be affected by the bill that this Congress passes to President Obama for his signature.

The bill currently on the table, called “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,” will set the tone for health care for generations to come.

Some types of legislation come and go. Tax legislation, for example, is passed frequently. Each Congress and President influences the ebb and flow of tax legislation. Taxes go up, credits are increased, credits are eliminated, and deductions come and go. It happens every year. If we don’t like something in this year’s bills, we can wait a year or two and it might change.

Another example is the agriculture bill that is passed every year. It is somewhat routine in nature, albeit sometimes controversial. Congress decides how much money the agricultural community will get and how it will be divided up. It happens every year. If the community doesn’t like how the money is split up in this year’s bill, they can wait a year or two, work with their lobbyists, and it might change.

Somehow, I get the feeling that health care reform isn’t going to be like the tax bills or the agricultural bills. It’s going to set actions in motion that, when implemented, are going to be very, very difficult to change or undo.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the provisions that are included in “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.”

The bill itself is 1,018 pages long. In and of itself, that should tell us how complicated this whole issue of health care reform truly is. A full copy of the bill can be downloaded at www.edlabor.house.gov/documents. I have reviewed summaries of the bill from separate websites, including those in favor of the bill and those not in favor of the bill. Here are my observations:

It’s important to remember and it’s safe to assume that many of the provisions of this bill will not be in the final version. It’s just as important to remember that we don’t know which provisions will not be in the final version. Ignoring a provision because it’s assumed that it will get cut is dangerous. It is part of the gospel of health reform until Congress says it’s not gospel. Here are a few of the provisions that jumped out to me:

•Currently there are approximately 47 million taxpayers who currently have no insurance. That will change because all taxpayers will either be covered by a private plan, be self-insured, or will be covered by the government’s plan. All U.S. citizens, including those here illegally, will be covered by a private plan, be self-insured, or will be covered by the government’s plan. Apparently, there will be no exceptions.

• A “Health Choices Commissioner” position and a “Health Benefits Advisory Committee” will be created. Whoever is appointed to the Commissioner position and the Committee may ultimately be among the most powerful people in the entire United States. I wonder how much ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich would try to get for these positions. Of course, someone has to be in charge and that’s the Commissioner. Let’s hope he/she is up to the job. The Committee will be responsible for determining what benefits will be available in the government-run program and when those benefits will be accessible. This sounds somewhat like rationing, but remember, we all should be able to purchase private insurance or be self-insured and not have to deal with the government’s plan.

• Every person will be issued a National Health Card for identification purposes. Going along with that, it appears that each of us will be required to have a bank account that is accessible by the U.S. government, because the new health care system will strive to operate only on an electronic funds transfer (EFT) basis. Our present Social Security system has been trying to convert to a 100% EFT basis for a number of years now. If this provision stays in the bill, I would think Social Security will also become totally EFT.

I will continue with selected provisions next week. This is Jerry Coon signing off.

Jerry Coon is an Enrolled Agent. He owns
Action Tax Service on Northland Drive, Rockford.
Contact him at (616) 866-4704 or
jcoon@actiontaxservice.com.

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