The health bills Poliquin backed didn’t just cut coverage. They also slashed taxes for the rich.

There’s been a lot of publicity about the health bills Poliquin voted for in 2017.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin. Ashley L. Conti | BDN

Key aspects of the bills include the cuts in coverage for middle-class and low-income working people and the much higher rates for older people and people with pre-existing conditions, making it impossible for some to get care and coverage.

In one of the two versions Poliquin voted for, 23 million would have lost coverage. In the other, 24 million people. Older people could have been charged five times more than younger folks. 14 million people on Medicaid would have no longer had it. (These numbers are from the Congressional Budget Office, by the way.)

But was another sort of consequence baked into these bills.

While tens of millions would have lost health coverage, the wealthy would have gotten huge tax breaks.

That’s because these health bills had tax cuts in them.

And those tax cuts were paid for, budget-wise, by cutting subsidies for middle class people to buy private insurance and by slashing Medicaid, which covers care for the disabled, children, the elderly and low income working people.

As an article in The Atlantic put it, “The GOP’s Plan Is Basically a $600 Billion Tax Cut for Rich Americans.”

The $600 billion figure cited comes from the Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan office of Congress that was founded in 1926, and which prepares “official revenue estimates of all tax legislation considered by the Congress.”

In fact, as JCT found, $600 billion was the amount through 2026. By 2027, the cut would be closer to $700 billion.

The tax cuts in the health bills Poliquin supported would have overwhelmingly  gone to people at the top of the income scale.

For example, if the bills Poliquin backed had passed, couples making over $250,000 would no longer have to pay a “3.8 percent surtax on investment income and a 0.9 percent surtax on wages.”

“Repealing them would cost about $275 billion over the next decade; which is to say, it would transfer $275 billion from public-health spending to the richest 1 or 2 percent.”

Other taxes mostly paid by wealthy people also would have gone away, adding up to a $600-700 billion tax cut for the rich.

Hospitals would be hurt.

The decrease in revenues from another surtax would have undermined Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. This caught the eye of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan group focused on fiscal responsibility.

Rural hospitals would have also been harmed by the bill’s Medicaid cuts of nearly $850 billion. That’s according to Sen. Susan Collins.

The upshot is that the health bills Poliquin voted for were a kind of Reverse Robinhood, transferring resources to the rich.

We sometimes see this dynamic over time by looking at multiple laws and proposals.

For instance, the tax law Poliquin supported delivered nearly all of its gains to the wealthy, creating deficits and debt that Republicans now say should be decreased by cutting promised spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

But both elements — the rich gain but everyone else loses — were right in the health bills Poliquin voted for.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.