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Excise Tax "Exemption"

Just a quick point. Often in the discussion of the health care bill, you will see people -- such as a reader of our Atlantic Media colleague Andrew Sullivan -- say that union members and government workers would be "exempted" in a now-hypothetical deal on the excise tax. (More info about the tax here and here.)

Not true. What the deal would do is give them a five-year delay on the tax. Once the tax hits union members as well as local, state, and federal government employees in 2018, their plans would be taxed at the same rate as everyone else's. (Of course, this deal isn't finalized, so anything could change. And it could be a moot point if Congress doesn't move forward with the bill.)

A five-year break might sound like a pretty sweet deal -- and obviously, the White House thinks it's good enough to win over some votes.

But remember, most of the dire costs that critics have been predicting about the excise tax wouldn't really hit until a while down the road, anyway. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, about 14 percent of single employee plans and 9 percent of family employee plans would be above the threshold in 2013. In 2018, 25 percent of single plans and 19 percent of family plans would be affected. The document also shows that the percentage of the premiums affected by the tax -- that is, the amount that would either be taxed at 40 percent or would have to be scaled back -- would also be pretty small in 2013, but would slowly rise each year.

(This report is about the thresholds in the original Senate bill. The compromise deal would raise the thresholds for the tax slightly, so the numbers might be a little bit less.)

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