Most analysis of the American Health Care Act, the new House Republican plan for repealing and replacing Obamacare, has focused on the fact that it will take away health insurance from millions of Americans, including, eventually, millions of poor, elderly, and disabled Americans currently on Medicaid. It’s reasonable in light of that to ask what there is to like about the proposal.
The main answer, for Republicans is Congress, is that it also contains $600 billion in tax cuts — tax cuts that would save the wealthiest 0.1 percent of Americans nearly $200,000 each in a single year, according to a batch of analyses released by the Joint Committee on Taxation on Tuesday.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget helpfully combined them into a single table:
The single biggest tax cut included in the bill is the repeal of the 3.8 percent tax the Affordable Care Act applied to capital gains, dividend, and interest income for families with $250,000 or more in income ($125,000 for singles).
Repealing that tax is a change that, by definition, only helps the rich, or at least the affluent. If you’re part of a married couple and, like the vast majority of Americans, make less than $250,000 a year, or earn more than that but have little investment income, it doesn’t affect you at all. The Tax Policy Center finds that repealing the tax would amount to an average tax cut of $0 for households in the bottom 90 percent — those making $208,500 or below. A handful of people in the 80th to 95th percentiles would see cuts, but the vast majority wouldn’t.
By contrast, members of the top 0.1 percent, who each on average make more than $3.75 million annually, would get an average tax cut of $165,090.
The second-biggest cut is the elimination of a fee on health insurance companies. Which Americans are affected by this fee right now is less clear; insurers have said they’re passing on the cost to consumers in the form of higher premiums, but exactly which premiums are raised and whether insurers actually eat some of it isn’t totally clear.
Then there’s the 0.9 percent Medicare surtax, a hike on wage income in excess of $250,000 a year ($200,000 for unmarried people). The Republican bill would repeal this surtax and, in so doing, give everyone in the bottom 90 percent an average tax cut of $0, per the Tax Policy Center. The richest of the rich, the top 0.1 percent, would get an average cut of $30,520.
We don’t have a full distributional analysis of the Republican bill yet. But the Medicare surtax and the investment tax alone combine to a tax cut of $195,610 for the top 0.1 percent, not far off from the $197,340 average cut estimated for full repeal of Obamacare. It’s hard to overstate what a massive windfall this is for the richest Americans. You don’t have to be a total cynic about the wealthy’s influence on American politics to see this as a major factor motivating Republicans’ determination to rapidly pass a replacement plan that eliminates most of Obamacare’s taxes.