Obama Aims To Boost Support for Reform in White House Meetings
At a White House meeting on Thursday, President Obama urged small-business owners and officials to support health reform legislation, which he said would reduce their insurance costs, protect them from unjustified rate increases and make their coverage more affordable, the Washington Times reports (Weber, Washington Times, 10/29).
According to Roll Call, observers said the meeting was an "olive branch" to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with which the Obama administration "has been engaged in a war of words."
The event was organized in part by the chamber and the National Federation of Independent Business (Koffler, Roll Call, 10/29).
During the meeting, Obama noted that small businesses often pay higher administrative costs for health insurance and that small-business employees' premiums are as much as 18% higher than premiums for workers at larger firms. The president highlighted a provision of health reform proposals that would give small businesses tax credits for insurance premiums that could account for up to 50% of the cost. He said that the legislation also would let small firms pool together to buy coverage in health insurance exchanges, granting them "additional leverage" in negotiating premiums, which could reduce their costs by 25% by 2016 (Washington Times, 10/29).
Addressing small-business owners who are "nervous" about an employer mandate, Obama said, "Now, it is true that when reform becomes law, businesses of a certain size who do not offer their workers health coverage may be required to contribute to the costs." However, Obama said that "about 90% of all small businesses would be exempt from this requirement."
Obama Meets With Liberal Lawmakers
Later in the day, Obama also met with members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus to discuss reform legislation, Roll Call reports.
According to a source familiar with the meeting, Obama's intent for the meeting was to diffuse House liberals' concerns over a public option included in the recently released House reform bill (HR 3962).Liberals have been in favor of a public plan that would set rates based on Medicare, but House leaders instead included a public option that would allow providers to negotiate rates directly with the federal government (Roll Call, 10/29). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.