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Health Care Legislation Passed by House Will Force Job Losses

In Uncategorized on March 22, 2010 at 10:24 pm

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.

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State of Union Proposals Cost Taxpayers $70 Billion

In Uncategorized on January 28, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Even as he encouraged reforms like a freeze on a small portion of the federal budget and a robust disclosure process for Congressional earmarks, President Obama still called for at least $70.46 billion in new federal spending burdens on taxpayers, according to a line-by-line analysis of his first State of the Union speech by the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF).

Among the findings of NTUF’s analysis:

•President Obama outlined items whose enactment would increase federal spending by a net of $70.46 billion per year. Since 1999, when NTUF began tracking Presidential addresses, the lowest recorded total was President Bush’s address in 2006, coming in under $1 billion in new spending; the highest was President Clinton’s 1999 speech, which proposed $305 billion in new outlays. Obama’s speech last night amounted to $36 billion less than the $106 billion that George W. Bush offered in his first State of the Union speech in 2002.

•Obama outlined 21 proposals with a fiscal impact last night, eight of which would boost spending, three of which would cut them, and 10 of which had costs or savings that could not be pinpointed. The single largest item Obama mentioned was a call to pass cap-and-trade national energy tax legislation, with an outlay cost of $51.5 billion (not including revenue increases or price hikes in energy bills). Other large initiatives included immigration reform ($9.8 billion) and subsidies for retirement savings among low-income Americans. Major undertakings with unquantifiable costs included a student loan forgiveness program and a new round of mortgage refinancing subsidies.

“This analysis doesn’t include huge potential burdens from big-government health care legislation, a new ‘stimulus’ plan, or greater obligations to bailed out entities like auto companies and banks. While it’s clear we face enormous deficits as far as the eye can see, taxpayers seeking specifics on the President’s future direction of federal expenditures likely won’t find a compass in last night’s speech,” Brady concluded.

Latest Senate Health Bill Continues to Overlook Plight of Small Businesses

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2009 at 12:15 am

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council recently announced that the latest version of the Senate health care bill continues to ignore the plight of U.S. small businesses, and instead burdens them with additional taxes and regulations that will drive business costs even higher.

“Rather than moving in a direction that heeds the concerns of small business, the Senate health bill imposes an even higher tax burden on our sector while retaining other tax, regulatory and compliance measures that will drive business and health coverage costs higher,” said SBE Council President & CEO Karen Kerrigan.

According to SBE Council, the “manager’s amendment” put forward by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid raises the Medicare payroll tax higher (from 0.5 percent to 0.9 percent), and exposes small businesses in the construction industry to a punishing employer mandate that will cripple this already hurting sector. The bill singles out the construction industry by not exempting businesses in this sector from the “play-or-pay” employer mandate that other firms with 50 or fewer employees are exempt from (although it does exempt construction firms with five employees or less). The latest Reid bill also increases the individual mandate penalty/tax, which will hit the self-employed, and maintains an array of other tax hikes and regulatory requirements that will drive up the cost of health coverage for small business.

Kerrigan said changes to the tax credits aimed toward helping small business are too insignificant to outweigh the cumulative cost load of the overall bill.

“The changes that were added to mollify small business concerns are too minuscule and complex,” said Kerrigan.

SBE Council has urged the Senate to start the legislative process over, and include small business reforms within the core bill. The group has long advocated a national marketplace for health care, robust tax incentives for businesses and individuals, the expansion of health savings accounts, tax parity for the self-employed, medical liability reform as well as support for local and state programs that are helping to deliver health care and insurance to those who lack access. Such market reforms and tax incentives will do far more to cover the uninsured — and at far less cost to taxpayers — than the $2.5 trillion Reid bill, according to SBE Council.

Actuaries Detail Health Care Reform Concerns to Congressional Leaders

The American Academy of Actuaries has detailed concerns for congressional leaders to consider as they negotiate combining the House and Senate versions of health care reform legislation. The actuaries underscored the need to limit adverse selection, whether it is stemming from new issue and rating restrictions or inherent with the current design of a new federal long-term care insurance program better known as the CLASS Act.

“Adverse selection occurs when higher-risk individuals are more likely to purchase coverage while lower-risk individuals are more likely to forgo coverage,” said Cori Uccello, the senior health fellow for the American Academy of Actuaries. “The result is that premiums increase.”

The actuaries said that an effective and enforceable individual mandate will minimize adverse selection resulting from more restrictive issue and rating rules that are included in both versions of health care reform legislation.

“The individual mandate language should be strengthened,” Uccello said. “The viability of health care reform depends on attracting lower-risk individuals. Strengthening the mandate through higher financial penalties and non-financial incentives would increase the likelihood that these individuals will purchase coverage.”

Regarding the CLASS Act, the actuaries continued to express their concerns regarding adverse selection issues that are likely to lead to high premiums and could threaten the viability of the program. The actuaries recommended adding eligibility restrictions to the program to limit adverse selection.

The actuaries also addressed other significant areas of the bills including an excise tax on employer-sponsored coverage, grandfathering provisions and medical loss ratios.  The letter is available at: http://www.actuary.org/pdf/health/differences_jan10.pdf.

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