NBA MVP LeBron James Faces $157K Medicare Tax Hike Under Obamacare

Curtis Houck | June 26, 2013 | 2:52pm EDT
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(AP photo)

(CNSNews) -- The National Basketball Association (NBA) is in discussions with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on ways to help promote the Obama administration's signature health care law. But the league's top players, including NBA Finals MVP LeBron James, are already feeling the effects of Obamacare's  tax increase right in their wallets.

Under Obamacare, the Medicare payroll tax rate rose from 2.9 percent to 3.8 percent on January 1, 2013. James, a forward for the Miami Heat, will see a $157,905 increase in the Medicare payroll tax he currently pays on his $17.5 million salary, bringing his total Medicare tax bite to $666,710.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will have $250,642 more added to his Medicare payroll tax bill. Based on last season's $27.8 million salary, Bryant's new Medicare tax will be around $1.6 million under Obamacare this year.

"It's clear that we're having discussions, active discussions, right now with a variety of sports affiliates - both in terms of what will end up being paid advertising but hopefully some partnership efforts," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding partnerships with professional sports leagues.

As reported by Politico last week, if the NBA agrees to promote Obamacare, it would become the second professional sports league, along with the National Football League (NFL), to do so in hopes that the league's endorsement will convince many young, healthy males to enroll in Obamacare's new health care exchanges.

But Americans for Tax Reform says that the NBA should think twice before signing on, noting that NBA players already pay the highest marginal tax rate at both the federal and state level "prior to paying a ‘jock’ tax on away games."

"While it is unclear whether prominent players - such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant - would be featured in ad campaigns and whether the NBA logo would be attached to marketing tools, the league and its players should refuse the offer," ATR said  in a blog post Monday.

Such a partnership would not be the first between government and professional sports. The Boston Red Sox partnered with Massachusetts when it implemented its version of health care reform in 2006. The partnership included the Red Sox shooting a commercial about the subject. "We know the Red Sox were incredibly effective in Massachusetts … so it's a logical place to go," Sebelius said.

A chart of Medicare payroll increases for popular marquee NBA players compiled from Americans for Tax Reform and ESPN data can be viewed here: NBA Obamacare chart.pdf

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