Perils of big-government power grab

When the House of Representatives narrowly passed a $1.3 trillion government takeover of health care, the bill’s proponents spun the event as proof of progress toward the common goal of healthcare reform. However, the devil has always been in the details of this 2,000-plus page maze of new bureaucracies, mandates, and tax hikes. Some of the specifics include a $425 billion expansion of the federal Medicaid and CHIP programs and the creation of a massive new federal entitlement program to distribute approximately $610 billion in insurance coverage subsidies. Taken together, they amount to an unprecedented expansion of the federal government and a wrenching of power and money out of the hands of Americans. The resulting economic uncertainty will only worsen ongoing job losses.

 Growing the federal government’s power and influence over America’s healthcare system will ensure greater confusion for families and businesses. A system dictated by bureaucrats who are beholden to politicians is a sure bet to complicate the delivery and raise the cost of healthcare. No group of Americans will be exempt from the perils of this big-government power grab — including our nation’s small businesses on whom we rely to provide millions of jobs and keep our economy running.

Currently, many small businesses have stopped hiring as they try to predict the economic and regulatory atmosphere they will face. Rather than promote policies that foster the freedom and peace-of-mind employers need to begin putting more people back to work, congressional Democrats are creating uncertainty that forces entrepreneurs to instead spend their time trying to decipher when the next mandate or tax hike will come. Their concern is, unfortunately, justified when one considers what congressional Democrats have in store for small businesses.

Under Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) government takeover of healthcare, many employers would be forced to pay a new 5.4 percent surtax on their business earnings if they file their taxes as individuals — common practice for millions of small businesses. This amounts to a penalty on success: those businesses that can expand, raise their earnings and create jobs will have to hand over more of their hard-earned dollars to Washington. The government in turn will use those tax dollars to fund a massive, new health care bureaucracy — one that small businesses will be forced to spend more time and more money navigating. The litany of new regulations and mandates invented and overseen by a new super-bureaucrat known as the health choices commissioner will only diminish opportunities for economic growth.

Unfortunately, a tax on success is just the beginning. Employers will also be obligated to pay up to an 8 percent tax penalty if they fail to obey or cannot afford to offer a plan that meets Washington’s arbitrary standards. This new tax will impact almost every employer, regardless of profitability, and will likely increase in the future to pay for underfunded federal entitlement programs. By telling small businesses they must offer a plan and dictating what that plan must look like, congressional Democrats are increasing the burden of healthcare coverage on employers while offering them very little flexibility on how to comply.

The message being sent from Washington is clear: America’s small businesses are expendable in the pursuit of greater government interference into our healthcare system. The “reforms” being proposed seem more focused on securing new political powers and sources of income for the federal government than lowering costs and securing quality healthcare for American families.

Americans are rightly puzzled by efforts to put such restraints on job creation in an economy with a 10.2 percent unemployment rate. In Belle Plaine, Minn., a small construction-business owner was recently asked by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) how he would comply with the Democrats’ healthcare bill should it become law. He replied that he would “no longer be a small business. America’s government no longer wants any small business to survive. We are just going to pay people who do nothing the same money as if they were to take risks and do a job.”

There is a palpable level of frustration among America’s job creators as they grapple with more uncertainty and the potential pain of higher taxes. The continued loss of jobs is a stark reminder of how uncertainty can weigh down an economy that is already struggling. The government takeover of healthcare envisioned by congressional Democrats will only exacerbate that uncertainty.

It’s time for us to start fresh and come together to develop targeted reforms that lower costs while benefiting small businesses and the individuals they employ. Republicans have offered proposals that would expand the market for quality, affordable health insurance for all Americans — including those with pre-existing conditions. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the House Republican plan lowers healthcare premiums. It ends the practice of defensive medicine through commonsense medical liability reform and allows Americans to shop for health insurance across state lines.

We promote healthier lifestyles and provide incentives for Americans to save for future healthcare needs.

Our plan would achieve the No. 1 goal of reform: lowering the cost of healthcare. We accomplish that goal while protecting America’s small businesses from a new and costly regime of tax hikes and mandates. Let’s stop the attack on small businesses and provide healthcare reform that works.

Kline is ranking member on the Education and Labor Committee.