Why the Democratic Health Care Reform Plan Keeps Me Up at Night - View from the Hill
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SECTION: View from the Hill

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Why the Democratic Health Care Reform Plan Keeps Me Up at Night

By Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-OH)

Article Date: 11-01-2009
Copyright(C) 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

And should keep you up too

Two major bills are making headlines; they're leading network newscasts and dominating discussion on cable news and talk radio. Paid political advertisements about them are even interrupting football on Saturdays and prime time TV watching. Health care reform is spurring a national discussion. I've never seen people so involved and so interested in what is going on in Washington. The discussion, while sometimes heated, is good overall. I commend AED for being engaged in the debate through its membership in the Small Business Coalition for Affordable Health Care.

There's no doubt we need health care reform in this country. However, the current legislation up for debate could have profound implications on your businesses. With all the talk, all the accusations, and all the advertisements, knowing the true impact of these bills is often difficult; so here are a few of the direct effects on companies like yours.

There are a handful of health care reform bills out there, but I'll focus on the House bill, H.R.3200, which I voted against as a member of the Ways & Means Committee when it was debated there. H.R.3200, as it stands at the beginning of October, has a profound effect on employers and could hit family-owned, smaller and medium-sized businesses the hardest. Employers that offer a health care plan must meet the standards laid out by a government council.

In addition, there's a mandate on how much cost-sharing the employer must assume. That mandate is at least 72.5 percent for an individual and at least 65 percent for a basic family policy. While some employers may already share part of the cost of health care for their employees, it may not equal this percentage. The bill mandates that an employee's pay cannot be lowered to correspond with an increased employer share of health care expenses. Therefore, this may cause many small and medium sized businesses to lay off employees – exactly what we don't need in these difficult economic times. We especially don't need more layoffs in the construction equipment industry, which I understand has shed a staggering 37 percent of its workforce over the course of the recession.

There is a "pay-or-play" provision in this bill, meaning if employers don't "play" by offering health care at all or health care that meets the criteria described by a government council, they must "pay" an 8 percent tax on wages. There is an exemption for small businesses with a payroll under $250,000, and phase-in of the tax for those whose payrolls between $250,000 and $400,000; but don't take heart. These figures aren't indexed for inflation, so the amounts would become increasingly irrelevant as the years go by.

I realize small and medium-sized business are the backbone of this country, I do not believe forcing employer-provided health care plans to change, or the "pay-or-play" scheme is the reform Americans are looking for. In fact, the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors said this type of mandate could result in the loss of up to 5.5 million jobs.

However, I am for health care reform. I believe every American should have access to quality, affordable health care when they need it. I don't believe someone should lose coverage because of a pre-existing condition, because they lose their job, or because they move. I believe small and medium-sized businesses should be allowed to join together to provide the same quality health care that large companies can. I believe the cost of health care could be lowered if patients and employers were allowed to purchase insurance over state lines; this would expand competition and lower costs. Finally, I believe that patients and doctors should make health care decisions together, not government-mandated councils, or government-appointed czars. This is the kind of reform I'm fighting for and will continue to pursue in Washington.
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