Letters to the Editor 2019

To the Editor: 

I think we can all agree that the cost of health insurance is too high. Right now, there is a new tax looming which, unless Congress acts soon, will take effect Jan. 1, 2020, and which, in all likelihood, will raise healthcare premiums even more, especially for seniors and those who have moderate or lower incomes.

It is known as the Health Insurance Tax (HIT), and although the tax was collected starting in 2014, and continued to be collected in 2015 and 2016, the HIT was suspended in 2017.

In 2018, the tax again went into effect, but when premiums rose once more, Congress took action and placed another moratorium on it for 2019. The moratorium ends Dec. 31, 2019.

If the tax is resurrected, an estimated tax of between $15-$16 billion will be levied on insurers, who will pass the cost along to the insured. Many people could see their premiums rise by hundreds of dollars. There is also a fear that higher premiums might result in lower insurance enrollment and a larger uninsured population.

The tax would impact individual policies, small groups, employers who are not self-insured, Medicaid-managed plans, Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, and Medicare Advantage plans. Considering that the statistics show that more than half of all Medicare Advantage enrollees live on less than $30,000 annually, any hike in premiums will be a burden.

Congress correctly delayed the HIT before and should do so again. Two bipartisan bills, which do just that, are pending in Congress, H.R. 1398 and S. 172, called the Health Insurance Tax Relief Act. U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew is supporting the bill in the House. Time is running out, though.

Reach out to Van Drew and thank him for supporting this bill, and urge him to continue to put pressure on his colleagues to take action before the end of the year.