Creating a fair tax system is a complex task. In a system where money is often borrowed from Peter to pay Paul, deciding if an action is fair usually depends on whom you ask.
Minnesota has one tax category, however, that legislators should agree is unfair -- the health care or sick tax. These taxes add an additional 3.06 percent to the cost of providing health care to a community. The hospitals have little choice but to pass the cost on to the consumer.
At St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd the 1.5 percent MinnesotaCare tax costs patients $449,055 a year. The hospital has paid $3,097,378 from 1993 through 2000. The 1.5 percent Medicaid program tax costs St. Joe's $313,668 a year with the hospital paying $2,849,873 from 1993 through 2000. That's quite a financial burden to be passed on to those who are already facing the complications of poor health or chronic illness.
Minnesota hospitals are forced into a real economic crunch receiving underpayments from federal and state governments in Medicare and Medicaid programs and experiencing increased expenses in the areas of technology, drugs and blood screening.
These health care taxes are among the most regressive in the state because they fall largely on those with chronic illnesses and the elderly. Legislation has been introduced to repeal the Medicaid surcharge and the MinnesotaCare tax. These measures deserve the support of the Legislature.
Certainly this relief, going to those who have health problems, is every bit as needed as the much ballyhooed reduction in license plate tab fees that was addressed in the 2000 legislative session.
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