Union Targets Baucus, Conrad on Health Benefits Tax
The Laborers’ International Union of North America is targeting Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) with a television ad urging the two Senators to resist taxing health insurance benefits as a means to pay for health care reform.LIUNA, a union representing construction workers, is running the ad on broadcast and cable television stations in Montana and North Dakota, with each specifically tailored toward Baucus and Conrad, respectively. The 30-second spot is set to air Tuesday through Thursday, with accompanying radio ads running through July Fourth weekend.“Finally, Congress is working to fix health care,— the voice-over says, as the spot targeting Baucus opens. “And what matters most is providing quality health care with good benefits — at a price we can afford.— “But the U.S. Senate is working on a plan that could cost middle-class Americans more money,— the ad continues. “This plan would tax your health insurance benefits. So working families will pay even higher taxes than they do now. “Montana families want health care reform that works — not more taxes. Tell Sen. Baucus that taxing benefits is the wrong way to fix health care.—The script of the Conrad ad is virtually identical. LIUNA on Monday could not provide a dollar figure for the cost of the two ad buys.Baucus and Conrad are exploring ending the federal exclusion that protects employer-provided health insurance benefits from being taxed as regular income. Baucus has suggested that any such plan that he ends up supporting would include exceptions to protect employees from exorbitant tax increases. Some key Republicans are supportive of the idea.Labor unions are vehemently opposed to this proposal, which they believe could undermine employer-provided health plans. President Barack Obama opposed the policy while running for president but has since said it would not be a deal-killer for him.Baucus has indicated that there is no way to implement major health care reform that controls costs and doesn’t add to the deficit without taxing health insurance benefits in some way.