Proposals would be popular if not for politics

 

By:  Kathleen Stoll
April 4, 2022

I have friends and family who will oppose anything that comes out of President Joe Biden’s mouth. It is an unfortunate, crazy, knee-jerk reaction. The degree of political division in this country — and in West Virginia — is wider than the New River Gorge.

So let’s talk about three proposals that — ssshhh — were part of a recently released proposed federal budget. From what’s his name. Taken out of a partisan context, Republican and Democrat voters think these three proposals are as great as cute puppies, free chocolate and quitting-time on a Friday.

Yet, these three proposals have failed to gain traction in the wacky world of Washington, D.C. It feels like D.C. now stands for “Don’t Cooperate” with the other party.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. West Virginians can call on both of our senators to support the following:

Lower the cost of prescription drugs for every American.

For too long, the U.S. health care system has been rigged in favor of drug companies, and profits have been prioritized over patients. Nearly 1 in 4 Americans struggles to pay for prescribed medications, and a 2021 survey found that 36% of Americans have forgone medications to pay for essential items and bills.

National polls consistently show nearly 9 in 10 Americans support allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices.

Giving Medicare the ability to negotiate drug prices would save taxpayers money. Analyses from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the CMS Office of the Actuary showed that negotiation could reduce drug prices by as much as 55% — saving patients and the federal government literally hundreds of billions of dollars.

Lower health insurance premiums for Americans who buy private health insurance.

West Virginians facing illness should never have to worry about how they are going to pay for treatment. And every West Virginian should be able to afford the care they need to stay healthy, take care of their families and keep working.

In March 2021, Congress passed temporary larger premium subsidies that made health insurance more affordable for the 20,000 West Virginians who buy plans on the state health insurance marketplace. But, come this November, when West Virginians sign up for 2023 coverage, they will pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars more for the same coverage, unless Congress says yes to making these temporary lower health insurance premiums permanent.

With this provision, premiums would continue to be zero for those with income below about $33,000 a year for a family of three. And premiums would be lowered for everyone else who buys health insurance on the state health insurance marketplace.

Make very rich Americans pay a fair share of taxes.

A proposed, new billionaire minimum tax would end the scandal of the richest Americans going tax-free for years on end. The new tax would target taxpayers with incomes over $100 million — 0.01% of taxpayers, or about 20,000 households. They would have to pay at least 20% in taxes and treat annual gains in stocks and other assets as income, just like workers pay taxes on their paychecks each year.

I think billionaires can afford to buck it up. During the first two years of the pandemic, billionaires saw their total net worth shoot up by $1.7 trillion, or 57% — to $4.6 trillion.

This tax proposal would raise $360 billion in new revenue over 10 years. That is enough money to invest in programs to help working families and reduce the federal deficit.

West Virginia families are grappling with the fallout of COVID-19, and with high gas prices. While job growth is strong, inflation is making it harder for families to pay their bills.

Congress needs to pass policies that help households with basic expenses that are stretching their budgets to the breaking point.

Please, let’s move past Democrats versus Republicans. It is time for members of Congress to come together in support of these popular, commonsense proposals and help working families.

Kathleen Stoll serves as policy director for West Virginians for Affordable Health Care (wvahc.org) and operates a policy and economic consulting business, Kat Consulting.


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