Senate introduces AVMA-backed health care initiative to benefit self-employed

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Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Sen. Craig Thomas of Wyoming introduced the Equity for Our Nation's Self-Employed Act of 2004 (S. 2433) on May 18. This bill is the Senate version of the Self-Employed Health Care Affordability Act of 2003 (H.R. 1873), which was introduced in the House of Representatives on April 30, 2003. Both bills were written to allow the self-employed to pay for their health insurance premiums with funds that are exempt from the FICA (Social Security and Medicare) tax.

The current tax code permits corporations to deduct health insurance premiums as a business expense and to forgo FICA taxes on those costs. The self-employed are not allowed this same deduction, however, and are therefore required to pay an additional 15.3 percent self-employment tax on their premiums. The self-employed are the only segment of the business community that must pay this extra tax on health insurance.

A 2003 study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found the self-employed pay an average of $9,068 in health insurance premiums annually for family coverage. If S. 2433 and H.R. 1873 pass, the self-employed will save an average of $1,387 in taxes paid on those premiums each year.

In November 2003, the AVMA Executive Board voted to designate the Self-Employed Health Care Affordability Act of 2003 as legislation for which the Association should actively pursue passage. The AVMA has joined a group of 30 other national organizations in the Coalition Supporting Equity for Our Nation's Self-Employed. At this time, H.R 1873 has 57 co-sponsors. AVMA members are encouraged to contact their members of Congress and request that they co-sponsor H.R. 1873 and S. 2433.