U.S. Chamber, employers oppose House healthcare bill

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of nine business groups on Thursday urged House lawmakers to vote against Democrats' newly unveiled healthcare bill.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this afternoon, the collection of employers and trade groups charged that House Democrats' latest effort "falls short of the bipartisan goal of controlling costs and jeopardizes employer-sponsored coverage."

While they did reaffirm Democrats' rationale for healthcare reform, they ultimately said the provisions in the majority party's new bill would adversely affect the entire employer community.

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"Evidence abounds that as much as one-third of health care spending may be unnecessary. This is why the employer community has been so proactively engaged in the reform effort," they wrote. "Unfortunately, we do not believe the House bill, taken as a whole, achieves meaningful, long-term control of U.S. health care costs and therefore urge all members of the House of Representatives to oppose the legislation."

Supporting the letter were the Chamber, the American Benefits Council, the Business Roundtable, the Corporate Health Care Coalition, the ERISA Industry Committee, the National Association of Marketers, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, the National Business Group on Health, the National Coalition on Benefits and the National Retail Federation.

Business groups have long kept a watchful eye on the House's healthcare efforts in particular, mostly because they expected the lower chamber (more so than the Senate) to include in its final bill a strong employer mandate and robust public option -- two provisions the groups do not support.

Nevertheless, the House's latest effort does contain those two, key measures -- both of which the Chamber and the nine other groups representing employers railed against in their letter on Thursday.

About the mandate, the groups predicted any requirement to cover employees would encourage businesses to "'pay' rather than 'play," and thus, affect millions of workers' current healthcare plans. Regarding the public option, the groups warned the government would create an uneven playing field and shift too much of the cost burden to private insurers.

Those qualms, as well as the Democrats' inclusion of a "minimum benefits package," prompted the ten groups to urge lawmakers to reject Speaker Pelosi's bill. They did, however, state their willingness to work with Democrats to produce a better piece of healthcare reform legislation.

"Working together, we can achieve positive reform that bends the cost curve and expands access and quality for all Americans," they wrote.