By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
A Republican state lawmaker is frustrated with Democrats for rejecting her proposal to encourage Congress to allow a federal tax deduction for purchasing health insurance.
House Joint Resolution 1014, sponsored by Rep. Cindy Acree, R-Aurora, would have called on Congress to allow consumers to write off health insurance premiums from their income taxes. Acree says if Congress adopts such a proposal it would help consumers manage their annual cash flow when they are responsible for paying for their insurance premiums that employers don’t pay.
“It’s about fairness and encouraging individuals to be responsible for their own health care,” Acree said in a statement. “It would encourage Colorado to move in the right direction for true health care reform and work toward more affordable health care and a more equalized tax treatment system.”
The resolution was killed Tuesday in the State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee on a 6-4 Democratic party-line vote.
Democrats say it is not the duty of state lawmakers to approve resolutions that deal with federal policies.
“We cannot dictate to the federal government what to do,” said Rep. Jeanne Labuda, D-Denver, vice-chairwoman of the House State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee.
Labuda said that while she would likely support the proposal on a federal level, she was not supportive of sending directives to Congress, especially given the recent passage of health care reform signed by the president just this week.
“I didn’t know if there was anything in there about this in the health care bill — I figured this might have been taken care of in the health care bill,” she said.
“It’s just something that is on the federal level, not the state level, and I would not be in favor of it on the state level because we’re so short of funds already,” continued Labuda.
But Acree says state lawmakers needed to send a message to Congress. She points out that the allowable federal medical tax deduction requires a consumer to spend more than 7 percent of their income on health care costs in order to qualify for the break.
Families without serious medical conditions should still be allowed the deduction, said Acree.
“How do we encourage healthy people to invest in their own health care when some people get tax advantages to do so and others do not?” asked Acree.
Because of rising premiums, many employers are also seeing their rates increase and are therefore cutting back on coverage for employees, she said. If individuals were able to take deductions for the cost of their health insurance, small businesses might be able to offer employees a cash benefit to help them pay for their insurance, Acree said.
“Employers sometimes are not able to provide health insurance to employees, which creates a wedge between the individual and provider of the health care, she said. “This resolution is good for the consumers and businesses across the state.”