In Obamacare debate, name-calling still overshadows facts
by Daniel Gaddy
Jul 12, 2012 | 590 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Daniel Gaddy
Daniel Gaddy
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I’m having to dedicate this entire column solely to responses from my last Op-Ed about the Affordable Care Act.

When I came to work after the column ran, I found that I received one phone call and a few e-mails — one of them from conservative columnist Daniel Gardner telling of some of the taxes called for in Obamacare that I left out (they’re included in a list below). The Facebook comments, however, are at 50 and counting (For the record, I also received many supportive comments from some truly kind people).

Though, I included a few jabs at the GOP in my piece, my main goal was to start a conversation about the actual bill, particularly its provisions and revenue sources.

Every week I get an idea inside my head that I can write something that will circumvent the hatefulness of our modern political discourse and get us talking about the facts. And every week I’m let down. I wonder if we, as a country, have become so divided that there is no turning back. Is there any fact, any report, any statistic I could use that would really change the way anyone feels about health care reform?

Like I said in my last column, I’m not trying to convince anyone that Obamacare is the right thing to do. I just wanted to list what’s actually in the law and say that SOME type of health care reform is drastically needed.

I issued an open invitation for anyone to add to my list of taxes in the Affordable Care Act because (and this might surprise you) I’m not an expert on tax legislation. I got two constructive criticisms.

One brought attention to a claim I made that 18,000 people die every year from lack of health care. That figure is from an Institute of Medicine study. According to Politifact.com, a researcher has challenged the methods used to get to those numbers. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the study discredited, but there indeed might be some outliers affecting the stats. Of course, I feel one death a year due to lack of health insurance is too many.

But I digress.

Another gentleman e-mailed me complaining that I did not include a source list for my column. He was absolutely right. To be clear, I pulled the info about the taxes and provisions of Obamacare from a Congressional Research Office handout, an article on Politifact.com and a factsheet from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Here is the list of taxes I missed in my last column (and I will note the sources for each):

•An exclusion of the costs for over-the-counter drugs from being reimbursed through an HRA or health FSA and from being reimbursed on a tax-free basis through an HSA or Archer Medical Savings Account. (Copied directly from Kaiser Factsheet)

•An increase to the tax on distributions from a health savings account or an Archer MSA that are not used for qualified medical expenses to 20 percent (from 10 percent for HSAs and from 15 percent for Archer MSAs) of the disbursed amount. (Kaiser)

•A $2,500-a-year cap on the amount of contributions to a flexible spending account for medical expenses.(Kaiser)

•A 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices produced in the U.S (from Gardner).

•A 5 percent excise tax on cosmetic procedures. (Kaiser)

•The Employer Mandate: An employer with 50 or more workers has to offer health insurance that covers minimum value (at least 60 percent of cost of services). If he doesn't and that employer has at least one staff member that qualifies for federal premium assistance under the new law, that employer can be charged $2,000 for every worker excluding the first 30 or $3,000 for every employee eligible for a credit.(from Gardner)

Many conservatives claim that last tax will kill thousands of jobs. However, a Congressional Budget Office Report entitled “Effects of Changes to the Health Insurance System on Labor Markets” says it will likely be a small impact.

Gardner’s e-mail also mentioned a tax on biofuels. Several sources mention a provision that calls for a reclassification of materials for biofuels, and though that provisions was in the revenue section of the ACA, I could not find a source that told how much the tax would be.

Gardner also mentioned three taxes: a capital gains tax increase from 15 to 23.8 percent; an increase to the tax on dividends from 15 to 43.4 percent; and a tax increase on certain kinds of corporations (typically small businesses). He cited FoxNation, and I simply refuse to accept any affiliate of Fox News as a reliable source.

I genuinely tried to track down these provisions elsewhere, but couldn’t. I'm not disputing Gardner’s statement. I simply can't find another source verifying these tax hikes.

If you can find one, please just post the link on Facebook because I will be writing follow ups to this column for the next 6 months if I continue to publish every right-wingers challenge to my Op-Ed.

With all the negative responses I received on the column, it’s easy to see why so many pundits just resort to name-calling or broad, emotion-based insults.

Whether it’s doing any good or not, I’m always going to try to talk about the facts as I see them. And as hilarious as it might be to our Facebook commentators, I will always consider myself a reporter first and a liberal columnist second.

Daniel Gaddy is a staff reporter for the Daily Mountain Eagle and a Walker County native. He can be reached at daniel.gaddy@mountaineagle.com