Small Businesses Set Sights On Health Care Reform
Several issues important to small businesses, such as health care, "top the agenda" for the 110th Congress, the New York Times reports.
Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association, cited the need for legislation that would reduce health care costs for small businesses. "We are actively courting change," he said, adding, "Piecemeal solutions are not going to work. We need to have universal coverage and subsidize people who are least able to afford it."
Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Chair John Kerry (D-Mass.) has introduced the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit Act, which would provide refundable tax credits to businesses with fewer than 50 employees that pay at least half of health insurance premiums for workers with annual incomes of as much as $50,000.
"It is not clear" whether the legislation will pass, but "it is most likely to be among many proposals tackling the problem," according to the Times.
Meanwhile, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) have introduced the Healthy Families Act. The bill would extend the Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires businesses with 15 or more employees to provide workers with seven paid sick days, to some part-time workers (Olson, New York Times, 2/20).
Congressional Republican leaders on Thursday outlined seven policy areas, such as health care, that they will seek to address in the 110th Congress, the Washington Times reports. Republicans said that the will introduce legislation to allow the establishment of association health plans, expand the use of health savings accounts and support the health insurance proposal that President Bush announced last month.
According to Republicans, the legislation would help ensure that "all Americans can receive quality health care" (Bellantoni, Washington Times, 2/19).
In related news, Cox/Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday examined how "frustrated business executives are working in unusual coalitions" to seek compromises on health care and other issues.
For example, Wal-Mart Stores and the Service Employees International Union recently announced that they would partner to develop a system to provide affordable health insurance to all U.S. residents within five years.
Norman Ornstein -- co-author of "The Broken Branch," a book about congressional dysfunction -- said that such coalitions could prompt Congress to act on health care and other issues (Geewax, Cox/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/18).
The AP/Houston Chronicle on Sunday examined how lawmakers "bring their own aches and pains to the table" in debates over health care issues such as prescription drug coverage and stem cell research. In recent debates, lawmakers have discussed their personal experiences and problems with the health care system.
However, according to the AP/Chronicle, "shared experience and empathy with the common citizen only go so far" among lawmakers because they receive "generous health and drug benefits from the government" (Superville, AP/Houston Chronicle, 2/19).
Efforts to provide universal health insurance such as the coalition between Wal-Mart and SEIU will require "policy choices that involve a greater role for government," according to a Boston Globe editorial. The editorial concludes, "Business leaders need to make sure that government gets the responsibility and money to provide the health coverage that all Americans deserve" (Boston Globe, 2/20).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.