Connecticut Democrats Want to Tax Insulin... Oh, Wait. It's a Fee, Not a Tax. Or Something.
Ok, ok, it's not a tax. It's a FEE.
That's right, the Democrats in Connecticut have floated the idea of placing a fee on the manufacture and distribution of insulin in the state, calling it a price-capping measure. This would be one in a series of sweeping new laws to remake health care in Connecticut, including a revived public option bill.
The Connecticut Republican Party tweeted the news out, noting that the Democratic spin doesn't match the language in the bill:
One user noted that this comes as they also consider increased funding to Planned Parenthood.
Connecticut has a well-earned reputation as a liberal tax-and-spend mecca, so this should come as no surprise. One Republican legislator tweeted:
It says right there in the bill that it imposes a fee on the manufacture and distribution of insulin.
Connecticut Democrats clapped back, of course, accusing the GOP of deliberately misleading people about the intent of the bill.
The Yankee Institute, a free-market think tank in Hartford, reported:
Sen. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, took to his Facebook page and posted a video saying that the accusation the bill is an “insulin tax” is “BS.”
“There’s no truth to it,” Lesser said in his video. “We’re looking to make sure that we can cap out of pocket costs for people who are struggling with skyrocketing insulin prices. This is something that other states have done on a bipartisan basis.”
Likewise, Senate Democrats released a video and graphics saying the bill is meant to cap costs at the consumer level and that the fee is for “bad-acting manufacturers and distributors of insulin who aren’t transparent about their costs.”
Senate Democrats also tweeted out a 2019 letter from Sen. Saud Anwar, D-Windsor, to the chairpersons of the Public Health Committee urging a cap on the total amount an individual is required to pay for insulin and to instruct the Attorney General of Connecticut to investigate the rising price of insulin.
How the fee on manufacturers and distributors plays into a price cap is unknown. It is only a proposed bill and lacks details at this point, and there is no mention of a price cap.
Ay, there's the rub -- the chance to dream that a fee can be a price cap. No word yet on the mechanics that would cause a fee increase to lower prices.
The Yankee Institute goes on to speculate how it could work, based on bills in other states. For instance, in Minnesota, Democratic lawmakers proposed a similar fee to provide insulin to low-income patients. Even they didn't claim it wasn't a tax, however. That bill failed. Even placing a cap on the price has proved unpopular, with only Illinois and Colorado passing such regulations.
States have long used the fee excuse to get around laws governing tax increases. Oregon, for instance, requires a 3/5 majority vote in both houses and a referral to the ballot for any tax increase, so Democratic legislative majorities have for years increased fees across all governmental agencies to get around that constitutional requirement. Around 50% of Oregon's budget is funded not by taxes, but by fees.
Connecticut Democrats are no stranger to Orwellian doublespeak to explain their actions. I reported last year on their attempts to divert even more highway money than normal to things that have nothing to do with highways:
Republicans have accused Democrats of raiding the special transportation fund "lockbox" several times, which has contributed to the unfunded infrastructure liabilities. Democrats deny this, saying that the money diverted before it got into the fund does not constitute a raid.
Yeah, they really said that:
So pardon me if I take their claims of innocence with a grain of salt. A governmentally imposed increase in the price of a good sure feels like a tax when you're paying it, regardless of what you call it.