The Senate-passed healthcare legislation will unquestionably burden Americans with countless mandates, new taxes, penalties and higher insurance premiums. Small businesses will be hindered by stringent regulations and taxes that will ultimately force them to slash jobs. This bill comes at a time when unemployment stands as the most important problem facing the country today.
The House on Sunday night voted 219-212 to send H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – the health care bill passed by the Senate on Christmas Eve – to President Obama for his signature. Later, the House voted 220-211 to approve H.R. 4872, the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010, a package of amendments to the Senate bill. That measure now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to be considered this week.
The Senate bill imposes a penalty of $750 per full-time worker on companies with 50 or more employees that do not provide coverage to full-time workers. But the House reconciliation bill would increase that penalty to $2,000, with the first 30 workers exempted. If an employer offers coverage but the coverage is deemed unaffordable to a full-time employee, that employee can opt out to a new purchasing exchange. The company would then be assessed $3,000 for each of those employees up to a cap of $2,000 for every full-time worker on the payroll. This mandate becomes applicable in 2014.
The National Retail Federation expressed extreme disappointment at the House’s passage of sweeping health care reform legislation over the weekend, saying added labor costs under the bill will cost many retail workers their jobs.
“This is a historic moment, but not a cause for celebration. Congress has embarked on a dangerous, anti-job experiment in the midst of the worst economy our nation has seen in decades,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations Steve Pfister said. “How many lost jobs will it take before Congress reverses course?”
“Our nation simply cannot afford more job losses during this economy, and many businesses already struggling to keep their doors open may not be able to withstand this added financial burden,” Pfister said. “Retailers have told Congress all along that we value our employees and want to expand upon the millions of workers and their families for whom we already provide coverage, but that to do that we need reform that would lower costs. Instead, we’ve been handed employer mandates that do just the opposite while doing little or nothing about the cost of medical care, which in turn drives higher coverage costs.”
“We are particularly concerned about mid-sized companies that are large enough for the mandates to apply but too small to have the ability to absorb these added costs,” Pfister said. “They could be among the hardest hit. And small businesses that drive so much of the job creation in our country are going to be forced to hold their size under 50 workers to avoid the employer mandate threshold.”
Under the bill, seniors will see their Medicare benefits significantly reduced, resulting in limited choices and higher costs. While Medicare will be cut, Medicaid will be expanded, despite the fact that the program is going broke and states are struggling to keep up with the expiring federal matching program. Imposing an unfunded mandate will only exacerbate Medicaid’s problems.
“If health care is not funded properly through Medicare then the end result will be greater rationing of our health care system and fewer, more costly options for Medicare recipients”, said Peter Shanley, CEO of The Small Business Council of America (SBCA), a national nonpartisan, nonprofit organization which represents the interests of privately-held and family-owned businesses on federal tax, health care and employee benefit matters. “The quality and availability of health care will go down and Medicare patients will be hurt in the long run.”
The new health law also empowers federal officials to dictate how doctors treat privately insured patients (Senate bill, pp. 148-149). Never before in history, except on narrow issues such as drug safety, has this been done. The bill will require nearly all Americans to be in a “qualified plan,” then says that plans can pay only doctors who implement whatever regulations the Secretary of Health and Human Services imposes to improve “quality.” That covers everything in medicine — whether your cardiologist uses a stent or does bypass surgery, whether your ob/gyn settles for a pap smear or orders a pelvic sonogram. It could also cover reproductive issues.
There are many problems with the nation’s current healthcare system that can be rectified through medical liability reform, pooling health insurance, offering tax incentives, allowing states to customize programs, and reforming insurance regulations. Forcing a government takeover of healthcare, especially through parliamentary gimmicks, will not solve America’s healthcare problems – it will only exacerbate them.