Pelosi Confirms New Medicare Tax on ‘Unearned Income, Whatever Category That Is’

By Matt Cover | March 18, 2010 | 11:09 PM EDT

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. addresses the U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

( – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) revealed that a package of amendments to the Senate-passed health care bill would include a new tax on unearned income. Pelosi said this tax would cover all unearned income, “whatever category that is.”
Pelosi, speaking at a press conference on Thursday, said the new Medicare tax was inserted to make up for a reduction in the proposed tax on high-cost health insurance plans. The tax was opposed by House Democrats because it would have largely fallen on the generous health care plans enjoyed by labor union members, who are generally supportive of the Democratic Party.
Pelosi described the switch as a “victory” for the House.
“One of the victories we have in the House is that our members did not like the excise tax on [high-cost] insurance plans," she said at the press conference. "We thought it would hurt the middle class. The higher end of that [tax] was left in the plan. I call it the platinum Rolls-Royce piece of it. The rest will be covered by a Medicare fee on unearned income.”
When questioned by a reporter whether that meant the traditional capital gains – money earned from investments – Pelosi responded that the new tax would hit all “unearned income, whatever category that is.”
Reporter: So, capital gains?
Pelosi: "No, unearned income, whatever category that is."
Pelosi also described the new tax as “help for health,” calling it a “health fee” on all those who have what she again described as “unearned income” that would keep Medicare solvent for years to come.
“This is essential to strengthen Medicare, and in this legislation we will make it solvent for nine more years,” Pelosi claimed. "The Medicare fee is 'help for health.' In our bill we have a surcharge at the high end – this is a health fee on unearned income.” 
The tax, originally proposed by President Barack Obama, would levy a 3.8 percent tax on all “unearned income” defined as: 
“[I]ncome from interest, dividends, annuities, royalties, and rents, other than such income which is derived in the ordinary course of a trade or business not described in paragraph (2), ‘‘(ii) other gross income derived from a trade or business described in paragraph (2)," and ‘‘(iii) net gain (to the extent taken into account in computing taxable income) attributable to the disposition of property other than property held in a trade or business not described in paragraph (2).”
The tax would exempt only those married couples, filing jointly, who make under $250,000 a year, and any other taxpayer making under $200,000 per year.
This distinction between married, joint filers and everyone else would mean that the new tax apparently would violate Obama’s pledge that “no family making less than $250,000 per year” would see a tax increase.
“Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase,” Obama said on Feb. 4, 2009. “Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.”
In fact, the plan levies the tax specifically at any “married taxpayer filing a separate return” who makes more than $125,000 per year.
For everyone else, including those who file as a head of household or who file singly, the threshold is $200,000 per year.
The tax would also hit any inheritance a person might receive if that person falls into the categories above: joint filers making more than $250,000 per year and everyone else making more than $200,000 per year.
These new taxes violate Obama’s no tax pledge because joint tax filers are not the only type of family in existence. In fact, one need not even be a family to file a joint return, as the IRS allows common-law, separated couples to file jointly, as well as those who are going through a contested divorce.