Health Savings Accounts are popular … at least a popular subject for politicians … even President George W. Bush had one (remember they were created by the Bush administration in 2003 as way to trim health costs) … and it’s a subject that Minnesota politicians have been pushing for over a decade … while ignoring what others were saying — circa 2006 when the Government’s website stated : If you have significant medical expenses that do not approach catastrophic limits, you are probably better off in a traditional plan.
Yet, there is bipartisan support for reforming the Health Savings Account system … and last week, the House passed H R 6199 : Restoring Access to Medication Act which consolidated a number of bills that the Ways and Means Committee had approved into one larger package.
The bill was approved by Republican 231-1 and by Democrats 141-46.
So definitely passed in a bipartisan manner … which should not be a surprise since a number of the underlying bills were co-authored by Democrats.
And the Republicans went out of their way to cite that … including when the bill’s manager Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) said “I have been pleased to work on with my good friend Congressman Kind for the last several years, and I am encouraged that the bipartisan duo of Representatives Meng and Paulsen have also joined us in introducing the underlying legislation.”
Ron Kind is a Democrat from Wisconsin and Grace Meng is a Democrat from New York and all regular readers of the MN Political Roundtable know that Erik Paulsen is Republican from Minnesota’s Third District and a long-time champion of Health Savings Accounts.
What is surprising is who voted against the bill — Ron Kind… even though he knew that it would be approved. He also knew that this bill was an election campaign bill for Erik Paulsen … just like H R 1270 Restoring Access to Medication Act of 2015 which was passed on July 6, 2016 in time for his 2016 re-election campaign.
It should be noted that the 2016-passed legislation was never considered in the Senate and died … the 2018 version is likely to face the same fate.
While Erik Paulsen has been busy tweeting that the Wall Street Journal is praising his efforts, he does not mention Ron Kind’s reason for voting against something that he help author.
Here are the highlights of Congressman Kind’s remarks (extracted from the complete debate including a speech from Congressman Paulsen.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this legislation, not because of the policy initiatives underlying these bills, but because of how fiscally irresponsible it is being done.
This week, out of the Ways and Means Committee, we have 10 bills to be debated and voted on on the House floor, at a total cost of roughly $90 billion. There was no effort made to try to find an offset or a pay-for in order to maintain some fiscal discipline in this place. That is problematic, because we keep digging the hole deeper.
But my name is on a few of these bills. Yesterday we had the repeal of the medical device tax, legislation that I had authored with my friend from Minnesota, Erik Paulsen. But that came at a cost of $20 billion. No offset. No pay-for. Just borrow more money from China and let future generations wrestle with it.
All we are asking is that our colleagues on the other side who are in charge now and running this place try to practice some semblance of that fiscal discipline that we showed with the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
We ought to be working together, finding out what is working with the healthcare system and fixing what isn’t.
What is not working is the elimination of cost-sharing reduction payments that help health insurance providers spread the risk in the health insurance exchanges. That is one of the reasons why premiums are being driven up right now.
What is not working is refusing to provide funding to the navigators, who help people make the choices with the health plans that they have available, or undercutting funding for any education outreach with patients, or the elimination of the individual responsibility component so that young and healthy people don’t get to sit around and wait until they get sick or injured and then go out and acquire health insurance.
That is not how insurance markets work.
What also doesn’t work is an administration that is trying to undermine the protections that are in place under the Affordable Care Act for people with preexisting conditions. There is a lawsuit ending right now. This administration should be defending that preexisting condition exclusion, and they are refusing to do so. That will implicate millions of lives throughout our country.
There is a lot that we can and should be working on together to improve the healthcare system, to reduce healthcare costs for all Americans. This approach, this piecemeal approach, while policy-wise there is a lot of justification and explanation for what is happening, is being done in a very fiscally irresponsible manner, just piling on the debt.
Mr. Speaker, this comes, by the way, on the heels, in this session of Congress, of the passage of a major tax cut last year that will add over $2 trillion to our national debt over the next 10 years because, again, there was no attempt to pay for it. It comes on the heels of the passage of a 2-year budget that will increase spending by over half a trillion dollars, none of it paid for, none of it offset.
Just yesterday, President Trump just announced a $12 billion subsidy bailout program for our family farmers because of the adverse effects that they are feeling due to his tariffs. And that is going to be borrowed money from China, again, to pay our farmers because they can’t now sell their product–guess where–into the Chinese market.
How crazy is this? I hope we are not in an era now where budget deficits and debt only matters when there is a Democrat in the White House. Over the last year and a half, that certainly seems to be the case in this Congress.
Minnesota’s #MathGuy did not have any response to the $90 Billion for this legislation … just as he didn’t for the $20 Billion for the Medical Device EXCISE tax repeal … nor for the $2 Trillion #PaulsenTaxCut … nor for the $12 Billion for the #TrumpTariffs farmers bailout.
What Congressman Paulsen did say was “Healthcare savings accounts, Mr. Speaker, have already been proven to help lower healthcare costs“ … which is sorta a head-scratchier.
Does the doctor / hospital / pharmacy / gym give you a discount if you pay through a HSA ?
If so, then you would lower your healthcare costs.
What he should have said was “Healthcare savings accounts, Mr. Speaker, have already been proven to help lower individual income tax liability.”
Hmmm … not a surprise … after all, CNN Money reported “Your health savings account is the best tax-free investment account you’ll be able to find” and that families making in excess of $100,000 make up 70 percent of HSA contributions.
Oh yeah … one more thing, you need an “administrator” or “custodian” for your HSA account … which means banks, brokers, and insurance companies would likely benefit from these changes.
Oops, maybe what he should have said was “Healthcare savings accounts, Mr. Speaker, have already been proven to help lower individual income tax liability and #PaulsenDonors.”
Oh … by the way, did you notice the question “Does the doctor / hospital / pharmacy / gym give you a discount if you pay through a HSA” includes the word “gym” as in gym memberships and fitness classes?
Yep, buried in the overall bill is a bill that “Representative” Paulsen sponsored H.R. 1267 The Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT) – which would allow individuals who itemize their taxes to write off as much as $500 a year for gym memberships and fitness classes, along with an additional $250 a year for associated fitness safety expenses. Those totals would be doubled for couples and families, letting some households deduct up to $1,000 a year for gym costs.
Lastly, another matter that Congressman Paulsen never mentions is how he voted on an amendment by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, on protections for pre-existing conditions.
Today, I introduced an amendment to ensure that those with pre-existing conditions can purchase affordable healthcare. Troublingly, this amendment drew fierce opposition from my GOP colleagues. Every single Republican on Ways & Means Committee voted against my amendment. pic.twitter.com/0kspTnxN2u
— Lloyd Doggett (@RepLloydDoggett) July 12, 2018
Yep, another unpaid tax cut … more business for Paulsen donors … and no commitment to protect his constituents from being denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions … but Erik Paulsen thinks this is all good.