What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Insuring Government Has Adequate Financing to Function : A vote on a Democratic motion to recommit (send back to committee) Republican healthcare legislation (HR 4279), with instructions that none of the bill's tax breaks would be footed by dipping into Social Security Trust Fund monies. (2004 house Roll Call 162)
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A vote on a Democratic motion to recommit (send back to committee) Republican healthcare legislation (HR 4279), with instructions that none of the bill's tax breaks would be footed by dipping into Social Security Trust Fund monies.
house Roll Call 162     May 12, 2004
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Loss

House progressives supported this Democratic motion to recommit -- a procedural request to send this Republican healthcare legislation (HR 4279), back to its drafting committee with instructions to specify that none of the bill's cost would be footed by dipping into Social Security Trust Fund monies. HR 4279 would allow individuals who invest through their employers in flexible spending accounts (FSAs) - which are used to shield from taxes money earmarked for healthcare expenses -- to retain whatever balance they have left at the end of the year, up to $500. Under current law, that extra money must go back to the employer, where it is then subject to federal taxation. This proposed change in law under HR 4279 would cost the federal government $8 billion in tax revenues over 10 years, and progressives supported the instructions in the Democrats' motion to recommit directing the drafting committee to specify that the Social Security trust fund would not be tapped to pay for these losses. Conservatives, however, called that a convoluted instruction and dismissed it as a "gimmick." Conservatives disputed that HR 4279 would have an impact on the Social Security Trust Fund. They added that, in the long run, people helping make their own healthcare spending decisions saves money, it does not cost money, conservatives said. The Democratic motion to recommit failed 202-224, meaning the bill does not explicitly prohibit using Social Security fund money to pay for the saying the FSA tax change. Progressives oppose the underlying FSA-creation bill as an assault on the U.S. healthcare system, saying it is part of what they said was a conservative agenda to eliminate employer-based health care coverage by encouraging employees to set aside their own health care funds - an option progressives says is not realistic for most lower and mid-wage workers. Moreover, progressives also noted that the FSA in concept is in no way prohibited at present: Individuals presently can choose to establish savings accounts to pay for their out-of-pocket costs. However, progressives also asserted that FSAs have the potential to split the health insurance market, because FSAs are likely to be appealing to younger, healthier workers who would gain financially from a high deductible, lower cost plan because they use few health resources at any one time. As such, progressives reasoned, premiums for traditional indemnity plans would rise very rapidly, and as such, firms are likely to offer only an FSA option. Conservatives argued that Democratic amendments had been given ample consideration, and the motion was agreed to 222-202, with all Republicans but no Democrats voting in the motion's favor.

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