Dems’ Health Care Preposal Draws Fire from U.S. Chamber

Pres. Obama and House Democrats have constructed a health care plan with the intent to cover 97% of Americans by 2019. Obama asserts the plan would "begin the process of fixing what’s broken in the system." The U.S. Chamber of Commerce — to whom we have no affiliation but do share many of the same goals — claims the proposal would hit business owners at the worst possible time.

House Democrats plan to fund the broadest U.S. health-care expansion in four decades by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, imposing a surtax of 5.4 percent on couples with more than $1 million in income.

The legislation unveiled yesterday would place additional taxes on households with more than $350,000 a year in income and calls for further increases if the measure doesn’t hit a target for cost savings. The provisions are intended to raise $544 billion over 10 years…

The plan drew fire from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s biggest business lobby.

“The intention of this plan is to tax high-income households, but the real victims would be America’s small business owners,” the Washington-based group’s president, Thomas Donohue, said in a statement. “Since when does our great free-market country punish success?”

The legislation would raise taxes on larger corporations as well. Among other things, it would make it easier for the Internal Revenue Service to prosecute tax shelters, and deny certain cross-border deductions that some companies are able to claim through tax treaties.

The House is also proposing a mandate on Americans above a certain income level: People would be penalized as much as 2.5 percent of their income for failure to buy health insurance. Most employers would be required to insure their employees or pay a penalty equal to as much as 8 percent of their payroll.

And wouldn’t you know it, health care is the topic of this month’s Policy Issue Conference Call — a free benefit for Indiana Chamber members. The call is this Friday (July 17) at 9:30 a.m. and members are welcome. Just register here.

UPDATE: House Republicans have also released their interpretation of a bureaucratic nightmare that would ensue under the proposed health care plan. View that here. (Hat tip to Chamber intern Daniel Latini.)

Health Care Reform Train Ready to Roll

A group of key stakeholders that has been meeting for months is apparently ready today to release its broad-based tenets for fixing what ails the nation’s health care system. The Healthcare Reform Dialogue, a self-given title, is expected to call for:

  • More individual responsibility
  • Tax credits to help individuals afford health coverage
  • Expanding Medicaid eligibility
  • Improving the Medicare payment system with a focus on prevention and care coordination
  • Increasing funding to train more primary care physicians (with loan repayment programs part of the deal)

Unanswered are the thorny questions of creating a public health care plan that would compete with private insurance companies or potential mandates on employers to provide health insurance. I think this simply foreshadows what a tough fight lies ahead.

Participants in the group represent insurers, physicians, hospitals, business, family organizations and unions. Many of the same people are talking with staffers for Sen. Edward Kennedy, chair of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee. It’s that panel that will tackle the more difficult topics.

Key questions: Do we really want a government-run health system? How will the employer-based system, put in place at the end of World War II but not viable in many ways today, be adapted? And where is the money going to come from?

The Chamber’s next BizVoice magazine (debuting in early May) will have several interesting health care stories, including a roundtable with Indiana perspectives on reform and how everyone is going to have to "give a little" to make it a reality.