Health care reform is needed, but the current proposal is unacceptable.
The frantic push to enact health care reform legislation is expected to culminate in the next few weeks in the U.S. House of Representatives. The House Democratic leadership, with the support of President Obama, will attempt a complicated two-step process to pass health care reform. A defeat of either of the procedural steps will force Congress to start over, but the vote will be extremely close.
This heath care bill is opposed by an overwhelming majority of American businesses and the public. Many members of Congress are wavering from their previous support. It is vital that they hear from as many businesses and constituents as possible. Bakers can have a critically important impact on the outcome by urging Congress to start over.
The health care reform outline unveiled by the President before the recent health care summit at Blair House is the cornerstone of this strategy. The President's proposal fails to solve the concerns bakers and other businesses had with the previous House and Senate health care bills. ABA strongly opposes the proposal that will, like its predecessors:
- Increase health care costs
- Increase health insurance premiums
- Increase taxes
- Expand the government's role as regulator and provider of health care.
On February 23rd, the Wall Street Journal summarized the President's plan thusly:
“The President's proposal … is in one sense a notable achievement: It manages to take the worst of both the House and Senate bills and combine them into something more destructive. It includes more taxes, more subsidies and even less cost control than the Senate bill. And it purports to fix the special-interest favors in the Senate bill not by eliminating them — but by expanding them to everyone.”
For many years, ABA and others in the business community have advocated for health care reform, albeit market-based reform designed to reduce the costs of health care while expanding insurance coverage to many of the working uninsured. It could be argued that as domestic manufacturers who are required to be close to consumers to deliver fresh products, bakers have been disproportionately impacted by the explosion in health care costs.
Sadly, the President's health care legislation ignores the unique challenges facing businesses and our country. The burden of providing costly health care benefits to employees represents a very significant business challenge, but adding additional programs with unknown cost increases, higher taxes and rising national debt willl only worsen the problem. In order to address the rising costs of health care, ABA and other business groups believe the President and Congress should focus on:
- Addressing medical liability reform
- Reducing fraud in the Medicaid and Medicare system
- Maintaining critical ERISA preemptions
- Increasing the use of highly successful cost-containment programs, such as Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts
- Increasing insurance company competition by eliminating barriers to providing insurance across state lines.
Focusing on these types of reforms will help bakers, suppliers and many other businesses better afford quality health care benefits for their skilled employees.
Now is the time for bakers and suppliers to reach out to U.S. Representatives and Senators. It is critical for everyone in the industry make their voice heard, from the production line to the president's office. Benchmark data clearly shows that the baking industry provides very strong benefit packages to their employees. These benefits would be significantly impacted by the pending health care reform. Now is the time for the industry to tell Congress and the President to start over and work on bipartisan, market-based reform legislation that will reduce, not increase, health care costs.
If you are interested in sending a message to Congress, please visit www.risetoaction.org. ABA has made it very easy for you, your employees, your customers and even your family and friends to tell Congress to start over.