Obamacare facts: Few will pay more under health care law

8:14 AM, Jul 17, 2012   |    comments
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By Kelly Kennedy and Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON - President Obama's health care law is constitutional as a tax - but only a small percentage of Americans will pay more, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data shows.

Though the law is projected to raise more than $800 billion in taxes, fees and penalties over a decade, 40% comes from about 3.5 million households with adjusted gross incomes above $200,000. Employers, insurers and health care providers are slated to fork over much of the rest.

That leaves only a few taxes that will fall partially on middle-income taxpayers:

•About 7 million people could pay more because the law makes it more difficult to deduct medical expenses. People with lower incomes are less likely to itemize deductions.

•About 4 million workers could pay more because of a new $2,500 limit on flexible spending accounts, which can be used to shield medical expenses from taxation.

•The tax that rendered the law constitutional, to be assessed on those who fail to buy mandated health insurance, could hit about 4 million people across all income brackets.

Several small taxes, such as one on indoor tanning salons, also could reach average taxpayers. Still, fewer than 10% of the nation's 140 million tax filers are likely to pay more.

The law's impact on middle-income taxpayers "is on average going to be relatively small," says Donald Marron, director of the non-partisan Tax Policy Center. "The bulk of the taxes are aimed at corporations and high-income folks."

Republicans insist much of the tax burden will get passed along to middle-income taxpayers. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, notes one in 10 of those taxed for failing to buy health insurance will be below the federal poverty level.

"Twelve of the 21 taxes in the Democrats' health care law will hit middle-class families," says House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich. "That's a double-hit on both families and job creators already struggling with the high cost of health care."

On the other hand, about 18 million people will get tax credits if they buy health insurance plans through new federal or state exchanges.

"The Affordable Care Act is the largest health care tax cut in history," says Jason Furman, deputy director of the White House National Economic Council. "It will provide a significant net tax cut for middle-class families and the millions of Americans who will seek affordable insurance in the years ahead."

USA TODAY

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