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Fact Check: Taxes And Health Reform

Should the government collect taxes to fund health overhaul start before the benefits begin?

Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison doesn’t think it should. In fact, she sponsored an amendment to the Senate bill to delay those taxes. Even though her amendment was killed Wednesday, it’s a topic that could be a GOP theme for the rest of the debate.

On the Senate floor this week, Hutchison said: “My goodness, if we’re going be taxed in three weeks, surely we’re going to have some sort of benefit offered in three weeks — some sort of low-cost health plan; or option…Oh, no. We’re not going to have any of the plans that would offer options to people. Not in 2010, not in 2011, not in 2012, not in 2013, but 2014.”

But is that so?

Well, not really.

It’s true that the major changes envisioned by the Senate bill don’t begin until 2014. This includes the new insurance marketplaces called exchanges, the mandate for people to buy coverage, and the subsidies to help them pay for it. Democrats say that’s because it costs money and time to set these major changes in motion.

But it’s no accident that there are many lesser benefits that start sooner. Democrats put them there out of concern about just what Republicans are warning against — that taxpayers will revolt over paying for benefits that won’t begin for years to come.

Among the measures that would kick in quickly are rules to require insurance companies to stop dropping people who get sick, better coverage for preventive care, and a program to help those who are already sick and without coverage sign up for high-risk health insurance plans.

Also, seniors will get immediate help paying for their prescription drugs under Medicare. Young adults will be able to remain on their parents’ insurance policies until the age of 26. And small businesses will get tax credits to help pay for workers’ health insurance.

So while the big changes don’t take effect for a while, there are many benefits that do begin right away. Along with most — but not all — of the taxes.

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