The holidays are great for enjoying family and preparing for a fresh start in a new year. Unfortunately, there is now a cloud hanging over people’s heads at this otherwise festive time. That cloud is called the health insurance tax.

Despite what looks like what will be a successful effort to reform the U.S. tax code, the urgent issue of the health insurance tax wasn’t addressed. That means health insurance costs will rise on average $500 per employee for every small business or self-employed worker in Maine as soon as the calendar reaches January 1.

That is a huge price hike. Local businesses and middle class families cannot afford that tax after many years of skyrocketing premiums.

All of Maine will soon feel the effects. Wage growth and job creation will be lower than expected and access to quality health insurance will suffer. Many working families will have less money in their pockets at the end of each month, and they will find that a paycheck-to-paycheck existence doesn’t get easier. Even senior citizens on Medicare Advantage are facing a $245 per enrollee cost increase.

In celebrating the tax bill, some will say, “you can’t have it all.” But a health insurance tax delay is something Maine must have — for the middle class, local businesses and for every community’s prosperity.

To provide complete tax relief worth rejoicing over, Congress must pass a health insurance tax delay for 2018 before going home for the holidays

Rep. Bruce Bickford, Auburn

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