U.S. Chamber raises concerns with the healthcare reform law

The powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce called for a repeal of Democrats' healthcare reform law and then outlined specific issues it has with the legislation during the annual State of American Business address on Tuesday.

The speech comes as the White House has been trying to repair relations with the business community in the wake of Democrats' midterm losses. Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue predicted Tuesday that "the president will see value in making the constructive changes that are needed in the bill."

"We see the upcoming House vote [on repeal] as an opportunity for everyone to take a fresh look at health care reform — and to replace unworkable approaches with more effective measures that will lower costs, expand access, and improve quality," Donohue said in prepared remarks.

R. Bruce Josten, the chamber's executive vice president for Government Affairs, laid out his organization's priorities: 

• Repeal of the 1099 tax reporting requirement. "We expect we'll see that repealed at some point," Josten said, since President Obama also favors its elimination;

• Changes to the law's penalties for businesses whose workers opt for government-funded healthcare because they can't get employer-sponsored coverage. Josten said this would have a "devastating effect" on the franchising industry;

• A retooling of the medical loss ratio that requires health plans to spend a minimum percentage (80 or 85 percent) of premiums on medical care. Josten said the provision was particularly hard on plans that cover expatriates because of their "24/7" business structure; and 

• Reforms that allow people to keep consumer-directed health plans, such as Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Savings Accounts. Such plans have helped big corporations such as Safeway to keep their healthcare costs low by incentivizing patients to use healthcare judiciously, Josten said, but many Democrats think they provide insufficient coverage.

"To us, this is a tandem deal," Josten said of the repeal vote and its accompanying resolution requiring House committees to start drafting replacement bills. The vote, scheduled for this week but postponed after Saturday's shooting in Arizona, will "begin the process to make some changes and corrections so that this is more workable and more affordable."