There is a ‘new’ debate in America at the mere suggestion that part of the national overhaul in health care might include (get ready to gasp) a new health care tax. The result of this might be that Americans would be required to pay taxes on the benefit they receive from employers on their health care benefits. Essentially, the IRS would look at a persons health care benefits as taxable income, rather than the current exempt status.

This idea is considered radical by some – welcome by others. Who would consider this a welcome idea? Taxes??

Well, there is a school that says when you tax something it reduces consumption. And, when you remove a tax it increases consumption. The by product of taxing these benefits might result in people becoming more active in the selection and take on more activist roles in demanding higher quality – and lower prices from their health care insurers. Currently, the tax exemption on these benefits may result in ending an employee’s passive approach to the benefits they receive.

Which brings me to the real point of my rant today and the use of my quote marks around the word new.

Wake up America. No. really. Come-to. Gain consciousness. Grow up.

Welcome to my world. The one I’ve been talking about for years. And let me pose this question to you. How does it feel?

I’m a proponent of this tax. If, for no other reason to provide equality and parity. Even though my current situation would result in a reduction in income with the addition of this tax, I’ve seen the inequity of being one of those who pay it, while the many of Americans do not.

What I’m talking about is another example of the two Americas class structure we live under – American Apartheid. Whereas one group of people, predominately straight – set up laws that fail to recognize another group of American’s predominately not straight. Gay people have been paying this tax for years. We’ve always paid this tax. It’s one of the fiscal inequities (there are many, many more) which serve to oppress an entire class of people in this country. Most people aren’t aware, or don’t think about this of course because they are unaffected.

But, when Rob struck out to start his own business we had to find an employer that would allow us to have both of us covered by insurance – like most families in America. In 1995, the Sacramento Bee, my employer at the time, did not offer this benefit. I sought out employers in the Sacramento area that did. One of them, was the University of California. Traditionally higher education related employers are much more progressive in this area – unless you look at an institution like the University of Texas, which in most respects is a leader in education and research but in other areas think it’s 1909 instead of 2009 – but I digress.

Once I accepted a job at the University of California, Davis – I added Rob to my benefits as a domestic partner. Aside from the hoops I had to jump through that traditional married couples are not, we were just pleased that Rob would have this. We tried for a period the route of the self-insured and found that for his little start up company – health care was eating up 50% of his operating expense budget!! What business can operate under that kind of cost structure!? (i.e. witness the current state of the auto companies).

What did come as a surprise though was the pay stub attached to my first check. What? I was surprised to see that Rob’s benefits were taxed. Not only were they taxed, they were taxed at the estimated “value” of the benefit (i.e. the amount that I paid in addition to the amount the university covered). I shrugged at the time thinking how unfair that my co-worker who sat across from me had a different tax structure than I did.

Didn’t we do similar work? Hadn’t she just met her husband like 6-months earlier, her 3rd marriage, etc. etc. (this isn’t about her after all). Where is the justice in that?

So gay people, who are in unsanctioned marriages like Rob and I, have been paying this tax all along. It usually gets no notice. The payroll representative I inquired from when I saw the stub that first time, had to research and call me back with the answer because she wasn’t aware why my tax deductions were different than my co-workers around me.

I hear the collective gasp that this proposal has initiative has caused.
I understand the trepidation of headed down this road of taxing something that for ‘most’ people was here-to-fore not taxed.
But, I just can’t quite work up a tear. Why would I. Finally – parity. Even if I wish we could achieve parity in the ‘other’ direction by providing this exemption to everyone.

But, justice, is justice.

Christopher @ Brazil in Houston
Originally uploaded by ChristopherSolis.