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Viewpoint: Congress must kill health insurance tax

By Andy Peterson

The surly conflagration of partisan politics in Congress recently assured the death of large-call health care reform. Now, lawmakers are left with only two choices: They can continue to play the blame game or they can start fixing what's wrong with the existing law.

Enough time has already been wasted and time is running out for many individuals and small businesses. Because if Congress fails to act before the end of this year, North Dakotans and small businesses will be slammed with a health insurance tax starting on Jan. 1.

This tax is no small matter. Simply look at the numbers.

• Individuals will likely see new taxes of $163 per year.

• Married seniors will see an increase of $480 per year.

• Those who get family coverage from small employers will see increases of $458 per year.

• Those getting family coverage from larger employers will see a new tax of $496 per year.

Here's another number to remember: $60,557. That was North Dakota's median household income in 2015. This tax will make a significant dent in the wallets of many families and individuals. And it will punch small businesses in the gut.

Here in North Dakota, small businesses comprise more than 95 percent of all employers and created more than 11,000 jobs last year. The health insurance tax will result in consumers having less disposable income while also robbing small businesses of their ability to hire more employees, increase wages, and make other necessary capital investments. To pour salt on an already festering wound, individuals and employers will still have to deal with increasing health insurance costs.

Congress can and must stop this tax now.

In a welcome change from what we have seen over the years, support for fixing this tax is bipartisan. North Dakota's congressional delegation has supported one-year delays on the health insurance tax in the past. All three members have also indicated support for eliminating the health insurance tax altogether.

The time is now for you to contact Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Rep. Kevin Cramer to let them know you are in favor of killing this tax before it takes a chunk out of our wallets and small businesses' bottom-line.

Andy Peterson, of Bismarck, is president and CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber.

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