Employers weigh in on health care bill

A doctor cares for a patient at a hospital in Panorama City, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Not to be forgotten in economic news today is health care. The House of Representatives passed its version of an overhaul package late Saturday night, which means it's just about time for the real negotiating to get going. Any group that didn't get what it wanted -- and there are plenty -- can now make its case with the Senate as it gets ready to take up the subject. One group that's grumbling louder than most is employers. Joel Rose reports.


JOEL ROSE: Small business advocates complain that the House bill would impose new insurance obligations on employers, while doing little to contain costs.

MICHELLE Dimarob: This bill does nothing at all to address the high cost of health insurance.

That's Michelle Dimarob at the National Federation of Independent Business. She says small businesses are especially unhappy about the so-called employer mandate: a provision that would force them to offer insurance coverage or face a financial penalty.

Dimarob: These employer mandates and these atrocious new taxes are going to force small business owners to eliminate jobs and freeze expansion plans at the very time when we need our small businesses to help move us out of this recession.

The employer mandate wouldn't take full effect for five years. And it would only apply to businesses with at least half-a-million dollars in payroll. Supporters of the House bill point out that it does include some insurance market reforms, like prohibiting insurers from discriminating against people who are already sick.

John Arensmeyer at the Small Business Majority says the House bill is better than nothing.

JOHN Arensmeyer: The health-care status quo is totally unacceptable. And this House bill is light years better than the status quo.

Still, many business lobbyists prefer the overhaul approved by the Senate Finance Committee. That bill does not require employers to insure their workers. And according to John Castelanni at the Business Roundtable, it would do more to contain costs.

JOHN Castelanni: If the end result is the costs go up, then we have not accomplished anything from a health-care delivery standpoint, and certainly not from the standpoint of companies who have to compete in global marketplaces.

Castelanni will be making his case to members of the Senate over the next few weeks, along with just about every other lobbyist in town.

I'm Joel Rose, for Marketplace.

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