Subject: Health Benefit Tax
Comment: I am the Human Resources Director for a municipality, and am strongly opposed to taxing employee health insurance benefits. We have worked extremely hard to do our part in helping to reduce healthcare costs by implementing a comprehensive wellness program and have been very successful in that effort. Now, for the government to come along and begin taxing this benefit at a time when employees are learning to manage their own health and be more educated consumers, rather than continuing the incentive of the pre-tax benefit, the government will punish them for their good efforts. It makes no sense. This tax will only serve to cause more Americans to be uninsured, as both employers and employees will no longer be able to afford healthcare. Then where are we and what have we gained? If anything, the government needs to rethink all of the complicated rules and regulations tied to HRAs, HSAs, FSAs, etc, and focus on one method that addresses the ultimate objective of providing a pre-tax mechanism for employees to save for healthcare expenses. Make it simpler, and use the FSA as the template, only allow this benefit to rollover year after year, rather than the 2.5 month extension, which just served to complicate the administration of this benefit. Also allow the employee to take the monies with them when they leave employment to be used for healthcare expenses, and eliminate the HRAs, and the HSAs which have just served to confuse everyone. Instead, make it mandatory that all employers engage in some sort of effort to promote healthier lifestyles and educate their employees on reducing their at risk health behaviors. Perhaps require that every employer in order for their employees to receive the pre-tax benefit, must have their employees complete a health risk assessment tool, which is a step in the right direction of trying to manage at risk behaviors and making employees more aware of what they need to do to help themselves live healthier lifestyles. This is the goal we need to focus on, rather than to take away the pre-tax incentives to get us to that goal. I would be happy to discuss this issue further and can be reached either through my email address or at 763-494-6016. We just recently won the HHS 2004 Innovation in Prevention Award for our comprehensive wellness program, and would hope that the government continues to recognize employers in their efforts to promote a healthier US with the reward of pre-tax health benefits.