JCT: Healthcare law to sock middle class with a $3.9 billion tax increase in 2019

Taxpayers earning less than $200,000 a year will pay roughly $3.9 billion more in taxes — in 2019 alone — due to healthcare reform, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress's official scorekeeper. 

The new law raises $15.2 billion over 10 years by limiting the medical expense deduction, a provision widely used by taxpayers who either have a serious illness or are older.

Taxpayers can currently deduct medical expenses in excess of 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income. Starting in 2013, most taxpayers will only be able to deduct expenses greater than 10 percent of AGI. Older taxpayers are hit by this threshold increase in 2017.

Once the law is fully implemented in 2019, the JCT estimates the deduction limitation will affect 14.8 million taxpayers — 14.7 million of them will earn less than $200,000 a year. These taxpayers are single and joint filers, as well as heads of households. 

"Loss of this deduction will mean higher taxes for 14.7 million individuals and families making under $200,000 a year in 2019," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told The Hill. "The new subsidy for health insurance would not be available to offset this tax increase for most of these households."

The healthcare law contains tax breaks for individuals purchasing health insurance, but the breaks phase out for those making $88,000 a year.

Grassley, the ranking member on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, voted against the health reform bill.  

Couples earning less than $250,000 will also nicked by the tax, but the exact number is unclear. The JCT lumps this income level in with those making at least $500,000. It estimates that 58,000 taxpayers earning between $200,000 and $500,000 annually will pay $74 million more in taxes in 2019. 

About 5,000 taxpayers earning over $500,000 a year will pay $43 million more in tax because of the limitation.

Erin Shields, a spokesperson for Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), told The Hill that looking just at the tax increase is "misleading and dishonest" since it "only accounts for a sliver of the whole pie." 

"Health reform will lower premiums and cap out-of-pocket costs families pay when someone gets sick, which addresses the reason the medical expense tax deduction was created in the first place," she said. 

When asked, Shields did not say the information in the article was inaccurate. Her comments were added to the story after its original posting.

The JCT figures were supplied to The Hill by Senate Republican staffers. The numbers were calculated in December but have not been materially altered. The JCT does not comment to the press on its calculations.

President Barack Obama in his Saturday radio address said the healthcare law keeps his campaign pledge to not raise taxes on the middle class. In his bid for the White House, he promised that individuals earning less than $200,000 and joint filers earning less than $250,000 would not see a tax increase under his watch.