Senator John F. Kerry is aggressively defending the tax on so-called Cadillac health plans that is central to the health care bill passed by the Senate, but opposed by unions and many liberals and not in the House version.
President Obama reportedly told House Democratic leaders on Wednesday that they should accept the tax on the plans with the most generous benefits. And Kerry, who offered the idea of levying an excise tax on insurers that is incorporated in the bill, said today that it is essential to passing health reform.
Addressing fellow Democrats in an opinion piece posted on Huffington Post, the Massachusetts Democrat said that "striking this provision from the final bill will make it much more difficult to pass final health reform legislation in the Senate and that's a huge mistake when we're closer than ever to completing a journey that began with Harry Truman. If passing health care reform was easy, it would've happened decades ago. It's not. It requires tough choices. And it's worth it.
"Second, this is an idea that will help health reform succeed in the long run. It will create competition and place sunshine on the process of pricing health insurance premiums," he added.
"Third, it will help control future health care costs without -- I repeat without -- directly taxing employees. Unlike a cap on the existing tax exclusion of health insurance benefits, which I oppose, this provision will not require employees to include a portion of their employer provided benefits as part of their taxable wages."
UPDATE: Union leaders plan to meet Monday with Obama to lodge their protest against the tax, the Associated Press is reporting this evening.
They say the tax is both bad policy and bad politics -- bad policy because it would be passed along to already struggling workers and bad politics because those workers supported Obama and Democrats and are crucial for the party's prospects in November.
The meeting is expected to include leaders from the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, and other labor organizations, the AP said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.