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High stakes for biz, labor in health bills

Marketplace Staff Dec 24, 2009

High stakes for biz, labor in health bills

Marketplace Staff Dec 24, 2009


Bill Radke: A few minutes ago, the Senate passed its landmark health-care bill in a rare Christmas Eve vote. Next step: Christmas vacation, then negotiations with the House, which has its own bill. And there, you can expect a lot of lobbying from interest groups. Here to tell us about that is Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman at our Entrepreneurship Desk at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Good morning, Mitchell.

Mitchell Hartman: Good morning, Bill.

Radke: So what issues in these health-care bills are critical, specifically for business and labor?

Hartman: Well, three groups in particular have a lot at stake here: big employers, labor unions, and insurance companies. It’s not necessarily going to be loud like the fights over abortion or the public option, but these are real pocketbook issues so they’re probably worth spending some political capital on.

Radke: Let’s start with the big employers. What are they worried about?

Hartman: Well, they’re going to have to offer their employers coverage, or pay fines, pretty much no matter what. But the Senate includes a tax on prescription-drug benefits many big companies offer to their retirees. We’re talking Boeing, Xerox, AT&T. They say that this will hit their earnings hard, and could force them to drop drug coverage altogether. A lot of these retirees are union members, so labor unions are against this.

Radke: And what else are unions concerned about?

Hartman: Well, the Senate raises a big chunk of money to pay for uninsured Americans by taxing what are often called “Cadillac health plans.” These are plans that offer pretty generous benefits. Well, a lot of union members have these plans, they’re negotiated in their contracts. What unions like better is the way that the House raises money, and that’s with a payroll tax on high-earners.

Radke: OK. And finally — the insurance lobby?

Hartman: Well, they don’t like a lot of what’s in here. But in particular, they hate a Senate provision that sets very high standards for how much of each premium dollar has to be spent on actual health care. That’s as opposed to spending it on overhead and corporate profits. And this is going to squeeze those profits, so they’re likely to fight it tooth and nail.

Radke: That’s Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman.Thanks very much.

Hartman: You’re welcome.

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