One dubious deal disappears, but another takes its place

Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, who made the infamous deal last month to vote for the Senate health care bill in exchange for his state getting a free pass on increased Medicare costs, has reportedly asked Senate leaders to drop the Nebraska exemption.

It’s about time. The deal was a poorly conceived measure that would have cost taxpayers in every other state additional money to make up for the deal Nelson cut for his constituents. And there were serious questions about its constitutionality.

Now, if only some Democratic senator will take up the banner to fight the latest backroom deal made to win passage of the health care bill.

The latest deal was made Thursday over the proposed tax on high-value “Cadillac” health insurance plans, according to news reports. It was among the White House, Congress and union leaders. Under the deal, union workers would be protected until 2018 from the 40 percent tax on health plans valued at more than $24,000 a year per family. But non-union workers would have to pay the tax beginning in 2013.

There is a reasonable debate that needs to be held — in full public view — about whether such expensive health care plans should be taxed. They are, after all, a form of compensation from the employer to the worker. And workers with less-expensive health care plans but higher wages pay more in taxes than those who receive a greater portion of their compensation through their health plan.

However, there is no sensible reason to treat union workers differently from other workers when it comes to the possibility of paying taxes on those plans — other than political expediency by those desperate to cut a deal.

The union exemption deserves the same fate as Nelson is seeking for the Nebraska exemption.


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