Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Federal Health Care Regulation: Taxation

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Nov• 04•09

Today we will discuss how the tax code affects health care.

  • Tax exemption of employer-provided health insurance. “In 1943, the Internal Revenue Service (ruled) that employees could exclude the value of employer-paid health insurance premiums from their taxable income. In 1954, Congress excluded by statute the value of employer-purchase health insurance from gross income.” To this day, employees essentially receive a subsidy to buy health insurance from their employers; this is because they can use pre-tax dollars to purchase employer-provided health insurance benefits.
  • Tax-deductibility of individually purchased health insurance. Individual health insurance benefits are tax deductible only if the individual itemizes deductions on their tax return. Since it is more likely wealthier individuals itemize, the benefits of this rule are more likely to accrue to the rich.
  • Deductibility of medical expenses. The IRS tax code states that individuals can deduct medcial expenses that exceed more than 7.5% of their gross income.
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSA). An HSA is a trust similar to a 401(k) where individuals can use pre-tax money to pay for medical expenses. HSAs must be linked to an high deductible health plan (HDHP) which was defined in 2006 as a plan that had a deductible not less than $1050 for the individual or $2100 for a family. Money left in an HSA account at the end of the year can be carried over to future years.
  • Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA). Individuals can deposit pre-tax dollars into a fund to pay for health care expenses. Unlike HSAs, FSAs need not be tied to a HDHP. Also, unlike HSAs, money deposited in an FSA that is not spent by years end is lost. This is why FSAs are considered “use it or lose it” accounts.


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One Comment

  1. Paul says:

    Curious. I would also be interested in the effect of 501(c)(3) status itself on the provision of health care. Since net income generated by tax exempt entities cannot be distributed to insiders (shareholders, owners), they must be reinvested into the tax exempt entity’s mission. Where does this go — primarily to additional health care services. In light of the demand shaping effects that providers of health care have been shown to have, query how critically important this is to delivery of health care in the US. (And not mentioned above). Thanks for a great blog.

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