House panel cancels meeting with company execs on healthcare law costs

John Castellani, president of the Business Roundtable, told committee staff that if "implemented right, the law has the potential to make employers and employees better off because it could bend the cost curve," according to the letter. 

Several companies commented on how the healthcare bill could help their companies. "Should the structural reforms intended to reduce the costs of delivering healthcare ultimately prove successful over time, self-insured companies like AT&T would likely benefit from such reduced costs," said Wayne Watts, senior executive vice president for AT&T.

Andrew Mekelburg, vice president of government relations at Verizon told staff: It is critically important to bend the cost curve to get health care spending under control. The correct implementation of the reforms associated with the legislation is important to achieving long-term savings for the country and for Verizon." 

The companies are affected by several provisions, including the end of tax deductibility of the government subsidy for providing retiree prescription drug coverage that is likely to cost the companies some money. 

Since 2006, the 28 percent subsidy has provided $451 million for AT&T, $332 million for Verizon, Caterpillar $74 million and Deere & Co., $56 million, according to the staff report. Under the new law, companies will no longer be able to deduct the subsidy as a business expense in 2013. 

Other provisions such as coverage of the uninsured and the law's delivery system reforms could lead to cost savings, according to the staff discussions with the companies. 

 "Companies like AT&T, Verizon and a range of stakeholder associations are hopeful that the benefits of the new law will outweigh the costs," the letter said. "But they cannot quantify the benefits until the law is implemented." The companies and committee agreed to hold hearings when needed to examine the healthcare law's potential financial effects. 

To read the letter to staff and members, click here. 

To read the staff letter to committee members, click here.