Sign Up for Email Alerts Visit us on Twitter Visit us on Facebook Visit us on YouTube Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Home > Past Briefings > Briefing Detail Page

Briefing Detail Page

Change Text Size:   Smaller Text Size   Larger Text Size   Default Text Size    

Tax Treatment of Health Insurance: A Primer

Friday, December 05, 2008

The United States tax system subsidizes the purchase of employer-sponsored health insurance for more than 160 million non-elderly people at a “cost” of approximately $200 billion a year. This tax subsidy is a major reason why most Americans have health insurance coverage through either their own employer or that of a family member. In recent months, the tax treatment of health insurance has gained a lot of attention – both during the presidential campaign and in health reform debates in Congress.

What is the current tax treatment of employer-sponsored health insurance? How does the tax treatment of health insurance impact employers? How does it impact employees? Do some workers benefit more than others from the current tax subsidies? Does altering the tax treatment of health insurance have the potential to expand or diminish coverage? Will cost containment efforts lead policy makers to consider altering the tax treatment of health insurance?

To address these and related questions, the Alliance for Health Reform and the Kaiser Family Foundation sponsored a December 5 briefing. Panelists were: Larry Levitt, Kaiser Family Foundation and Robert Lyke, Congressional Research Service. Ed Howard of the Alliance moderated.


 Ed Howard, Alliance for Health Reform, Moderator
 Larry Levitt, Kaiser Family Foundation, Speaker
 Robert Lyke, Congressional Research Service, Speaker
(Click on the camera icon to see a video of the speaker's presentation.)

Transcript, Event Summary and/or Webcast and Podcast

Transcript: Tax Treatment of Health Insurance: A Primer (Adobe Acrobat PDF), 12/5/2008
Event Summary: Tax Treatment of Health Insurance: A Primer (Word Document), 12/5/2008
Full Webcast/Podcast: Tax Treatment of Health Insurance: A Primer

The transcript, full webcast and podcast for this briefing, as well as videos of individual speakers' presentations, are provided by Kaiser Family Foundation.

Speaker Presentations

Larry Levitt Presentation (PowerPoint), 12/5/2008
Robert Lyke Presentation (PowerPoint), 12/5/2008

(If you want to download one or more slides from these presentations, contact us at info@allhealth or click here for instructions.)

Source Materials

The Tax Expenditure for Health: Update for 2007 (PowerPoint), The Lewin Group, 4/29/2008
Tax Benefits for Health Insurance and Expenses: Overview of Current Law and Legislation (Adobe Acrobat PDF), Congressional Research Service, 4/28/2008
The Tax Exclusion for Employer-Provided Health Insurance: Policy Issues Regarding the Repeal (Adobe Acrobat PDF), Congressional Research Service, 11/21/2008
Sourcelist (Adobe Acrobat PDF), , 12/5/2008
Speaker Biographies (Adobe Acrobat PDF), , 12/5/2008
Tax Treatment of Health Insurance: A Primer (Word Document), , 12/5/2008

Offsite Materials (briefing documents saved on other websites)

Employer Health Benefits: 2008 Summary of Findings (Adobe Acrobat PDF),Kaiser Family Foundation, 9/24/2008
Health Reform Through Tax Reform: A Primer, Health Affairs, 6/1/2008
Tax Subsidies for Health Insurance, Kaiser Family Foundation, 7/11/2008
Health Insurance and Taxes: Can Changing the Tax Treatment of Health Insurance, Employee Benefit Research Institute, 9/15/2007
Tax Expenditures and Employee Benefits: Estimates from the FY 2009 Budget (Adobe Acrobat PDF),Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2/15/2008
Health Care: How does the employer-sponsored insurance exclusion affect coverage?, Tax Policy Center, 4/9/2008
Health Coverage Tax Credits: A Small Program Offering Large Policy Lessons, The Urban Institute, 2/15/2008
How the government currently helps people buy health insurance: The employee tax break on job (Adobe Acrobat PDF),American Medical Association, 1/7/2008
The Importance of the Current Tax Treatment of employer-Sponsored Health Coverage for Employees (Adobe Acrobat PDF),National Business Group on Health, 7/31/2008
Tax Expenditures for Health Care, Senate Finance Committee, 7/30/2008
Statement by Katherine Baicker, Senate Finance Committee, 7/31/2008
Call to Action: Health Reform 2009, Senate Finance Committee, 11/12/2008
Using Section 125 Premium-Only Plans to Expand Health Coverage (Adobe Acrobat PDF),Mathematica Policy Research, 10/9/2008
Statement of Roger Feldman, House Committee on Ways and Means, 9/23/2008


Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation explains how the tax system subsidizes health care in two ways. (20 minutes) From the Dec. 5 briefing cosponsored by the foundation.


Toolkit: Emergency Preparedness in the U.S.: The Ebola Threat

Is the U.S. prepared for a potential virulent pandemic? This new Alliance toolkit examines public health infrastructure, funding and policy levers that deal with these kinds of health crises in America.

Read More 

Mike Leavitt Video: Consolidation and Control-The Evolving Health Care System

Mike Leavitt, chairman of Leavitt Partners and former HHS secretary, addresses the aggressive repositioning of players in the evolving health care system in a new Alliance for Health Reform video.

Read More 

Telemedicine Toolkit: The Promise and Challenges

The integration of technology and health care is on the rise. Although evidence shows that telemedicine has improved access to health care and resulted in lower costs in rural and underserved areas, challenges to expansion include reimbursement policies and acceptable security measures. A new Alliance for Health Reform Toolkit, “Telemedicine: The Promise and Challenges,” addresses the effectiveness of telemedicine as a tool for communication, as well as the expected outcomes and challenges ahead.

Read More 

Toolkit on Long-Term Services and Supports (LTSS)

The aging of the baby boomers and the increase in the number of old-old persons (those 85 and older) are predictors for the increasing need for long-term services and supports (LTSS). Among persons age 65 and over, an estimated 70 percent will use LTSS. A new Alliance for Health Reform toolkit, “Long-Term Services and Supports: Changes and Challenges in Financing and Delivery,” provides a background on LTSS and discusses policy issues surrounding the topic.

Read More 

Experts Discuss Workplace Wellness Programs

In a new interview video, Karen Pollitz, senior fellow, private insurance and health reforms, The Kaiser Family Foundation and Dan Newton, vice president, product/solutions development and behavior economics, Anthem Care Management discuss the impact of workplace wellness programs. They address questions about regulations and program design and analyze the scope of wellness programs.

Read More 

Alliance Search for New CEO

WASHINGTON, DC (Aug. 3) – Edward F. Howard, founding executive vice president and CEO of the Alliance for Health Reform in Washington, DC, will retire in March 2016. A nationwide search is underway for his successor.

Over the years, the Alliance has presented hundreds of seminars on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, has organized briefings for reporters around the country and has prepared dozens of issue briefs and “toolkits,” as well as a series of highly-regarded sourcebooks for reporters on health policy topics.

Dr. Robert Graham, Chairman of the Board, noted that the search for a new CEO is being coordinated by Association Strategies of Alexandria, Va. Those interested in learning more about this opportunity should email or call 703/ 683-0580. You can also view the position profile on their website. The deadline for applications is Monday, October 12. 

Read More
Position Profile

Read More 

Toolkit on Biosimilars

The Alliance for Health Reform has released a new toolkit, “Biosimilars: Unpacking Complex Issues.”

The Affordable Care Act created an expedited licensure pathway for biosimilars, and, in March 2015, the U.S. approved the first biosimilar, leaving policy makers, regulators, providers and stakeholders to grapple with regulatory and financial questions.

Biosimilars are similar – but not identical – to biologic drugs, and cost less. Unlike traditional pharmaceuticals, biologic drugs are derived from living organisms and tissues, making them more complex and expensive to produce.

Read More 

Toolkit on Connection Between Health and Housing

A new Alliance toolkit, “The Connection between Health and Housing: The Evidence and Policy Landscape,” provides a detailed look into federal, state and local initiatives, as well as cost implications for health and housing programs.

Attempts to tie health and housing policy are gaining momentum, amid evidence that housing, a social determinant of health, is an important factor in the health status of various populations. More than 610,000 people experience homelessness in the U.S., and over 250,000 individuals within that population have a severe mental illness or a chronic substance use disorder, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Read More 

Video from Reporter Roundtable on Open Enrollment III

On October 5, speakers at a reporter roundtable held at the National Press Club on open enrollment III provided the latest information about premium trends and drivers, health plan availability and new comparison tools for consumers to use in choosing health plans. They discussed trends in the role of navigators and brokers, and increasing consumer expectations, particularly around the ease of the process.

Click here for video.

Read More 

Copyright 1997-2015 Alliance for Health Reform
1444 Eye Street, NW, Suite 910 Washington, DC 20005-6573      202-789-2300      202-789-2233 fax      Sitemap