Abolishing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the taxes that pay for it would save rich taxpayers like me a lot of money. But it would also endanger the health care of more than 30 million Americans. That's not a tradeoff I want to make -- and no one else should, either.
Long before the ACA required larger employers to offer our workers coverage or pay a penalty, I was already covering my employees. I could have saved millions of dollars over the years if I had left them uninsured.
But I believe health care is a basic human right.
That's the underlying philosophy of the ACA, too. Thanks to it, the number of uninsured in this country has fallen by more than a third, from almost 50 million seven years ago to around 30 million today. A quarter million Tennesseans have obtained coverage as a result of the ACA.
The ACA is paid for in large part through taxes targeted at wealthy households and on highly-profitable health care industries that benefit from more people having access to health coverage, like insurance and pharmaceuticals.
If the ACA is repealed, as Republicans threaten, those taxes will disappear. So will health insurance coverage for tens of millions of Americans. Congressional researchers have estimated the number of uninsured would increase by 18 million in the first year and grow to 32 million in nine years. Premiums would jump by up to 25 percent in the first year and double by 2026.
Even as the financial burdens and health-care worries of the newly uninsured would grow, so would the after-tax incomes of millionaires and billionaires. Folks in the Top 1 percent -- those households making over $700,000 a year -- would see their yearly taxes cut by $33,000, on average. The Top 0.1 percent who earn more than $3.7 million annually -- would get a nearly $200,000 tax cut, on average.
The taxes used to pay for the expanded health coverage under the ACA were carefully crafted to only affect the wealthy. By using that money to ease a major financial squeeze on working families, the ACA improves America's physical health and also reduces our nation's unhealthy economic inequality.
The ACA focuses taxes on people in the right income bracket, the top one, and on the right kind of income, money made from wealth, not work. This passive income -- such as capital gains, dividends, and interest -- is heavily concentrated among the super-wealthy. In many cases it is taxed at much lower rates than employment income. ACA taxes partially remedy this injustice.
One ACA tax on the wealthy -- restricted to income over $250,000 -- is strengthening Medicare, so it can provide many more years of health care to the 40 million elderly and disabled Americans who depend on it.
I don't need another tax cut and neither does anyone else in my economic position, especially if it means taking health care away from struggling working families.
Tennesseans are lucky that our own Senator Lamar Alexander is chairman of the Senate health committee, giving him (and us) a big say in what happens to the ACA. To their credit, both he and our other U.S. Senator, Bob Corker, have expressed concern about repealing the taxes paid by the wealthy and big corporations that fund health care for so many vulnerable Americans.
Just before the ACA became law, a friend asked if I had thought of reducing my business' workforce to just below 50 employees to avoid the new health insurance mandate. I was astounded that he considered such a greedy trick to be a legitimate business strategy.
I'm equally astounded that cutting health care for millions while giving tax cuts to millionaires could be considered good public policy.
Prince is founder and president of National Business Products in Nolensville.