Obama Officials Won’t Rule Out Benefit Tax in Health-Care Plan

June 28 (Bloomberg) — Obama administration officials refused to rule out a new tax on employer-provided benefits as part of an overhaul of the U.S. health insurance system.

White House senior adviser David Axelrod, making the rounds of the Sunday talk shows, said President Barack Obama is flexible on the details of a plan to bring down health-care costs and provide coverage for the uninsured.

“The president had said in the past that he doesn’t believe taxing health-care benefits at any level is necessarily the best way to go here, but there are a number of formulations,” Axelrod said on ABC’s “This Week” program today. “We’ll wait and see.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said on “Fox News Sunday” that the president would prefer to pay for the plan by redirecting money already in the health-care system and capping tax deductions for the wealthiest Americans.

Obama has made health care his top domestic priority, and Axelrod said he expects the Senate to take up the issue in the fall, before turning to legislation limiting greenhouse-gas emissions.

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa said on “This Week” that money for a health-care plan “ought to come from within the health-care industry.”

Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said he might support creation of a medical-insurance cooperative to compete with private plans. Obama is calling for creation of a new government-backed plan to compete with private coverage.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: June 28, 2009 12:05 EDT

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