Business groups opposed to the House health reform plan that would require businesses that don’t provide health insurance to workers to pay a 5-7% payroll assessment are beginning a serious mobilization to undermine the House plan. Below are three communications that have come our way from some prominent business groups. Here’s your chance to see what they are saying to their own members (a few comments from me follow each one):
1. From the Mass. Retailers Assn. and others:
From: Jon Hurst [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Sent: Monday, December 19, 2005 1:38 PM
Subject: MA Businesses for Real Health Care ReformImportance: High
TO: MA Chambers of Commerce & Certain Trade Associations
The Retailers Association of MA and other organizations are preparing a public media campaign to oppose the health care payroll tax and employer mandates. We are calling our coalition Massachusetts Businesses for Real Health Care Reform. We will also have a website (not up yet) which you will be able to access beginning next week at www.unhealthyreform.com.
Our campaign will consist of radio ads beginning next week, and continuing the first week of January. We will also present newspaper ads in “advertorial” style the first week of January. We hope to be able to list supporting organizations in the newspaper ads. The website will allow organizations and individuals to sign up, contact their legislator, and will contain information on the payroll tax and employer mandates. Other paid efforts (such as paid grassroots) will depend upon new contributions received over the next couple of weeks.
We are looking for associations and chambers of commerce to sign up for this coalition. Our messages will be anti-payroll tax and employer mandates, while urging lower health care costs for everyone, particularly small businesses. Obviously time is very short given the fact that the Health Care Conference Committee is meeting, and hopes to have a final bill to report in January. The holidays further complicate matters as we seek organizations to sign onto the effort, and to continue grassroots and free media (letters to the editor, op-ed’s, etc.) to influence the process.
Please consider signing on to this coalition this week. Please use the attached membership form, and fax it back today, or as soon as possible! We need you to be a part of an employer effort to prevent a payroll tax from becoming law in Massachusetts. Organizations signing on will be listed on the website, and perhaps (if space permits) on the advertorial. We would also be happy to supply you with draft letters to the editor and op-ed’s for your local newspaper use.
Thank you for your consideration, and feel free to contact me, Bill Rennie or Erin Trabucco of the RAM staff if you have any questions.
Jon B. Hurst, President
Retailers Association of Massachusetts
18 Tremont St., Suite 1040
Boston, MA 02108
617-523-1900, Ext. 12
The Voice of Retailing Since 1910
Comments: No surprise here — retailers are a key sector where health insurance for workers is inadequate or non-existent. The irony — calling their effort the “coalition for real health reform” when business has been missing in action on health reform since this discussion kicked off in November 2004. Also, by eliminating a $160 million current assessment on employers who cover their workers, the House health reform plan is the only one with guaranteed cost reductions in premiums for employers who cover their workers.
2. From Associated Industries of Mass:
Subject: New Health Care Tax Opposed by Business Community
Call to Action
I write to you during this Holiday Season, however reluctantly, because I know health care reform is critical to you and we need your help.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts is participating in a multi-faceted public campaign to shape the final version of the pending health care bill and to ensure that any legislation adopted by the House and Senate does not harm the state’s fragile business climate. We are particularly concerned that the final version of the bill should not include an employer mandate to provide health insurance or a special “payroll tax” created to penalize employers who cannot afford to provide coverage for their employees.
Accordingly, we are asking every member of A.I.M. to contact selected elected officials to convey the business community’s concern about the final shape of the bill as well as our real concern for the overall business climate.
By accessing the link below, you will be directed to our website which contains additional background information about the status of the health insurance debate, the specific proposals that are of most concern as well as the principals of a plan that AIM does support. The website also provides you with the email address or fax number of the targeted officials central to the debate, as well as a proposed text that you can use when telling the targeted officials how you feel.
Associated Industries of Massachusetts has tried to achieve compromise on this issue using “diplomatic” means. Our success is not assured at this point and your help is most crucial.
Please call me if you have any questions or need further information at 617-262-1180.
Thank you for your willingness to join in this effort. We will reach out to you again as the campaign unfolds and keep you informed of our progress.
Click the link below to log in and send your message: http://votervoice.net/target.asp?id=aim:7461794
Comment: This is the most surprising and disappointing. AIM officials regularly disclose that more than 99% of their members provide health insurance to their workers, will owe nothing under the House assessment, and will save money via the elimination of the $160 million existing tax. AIM views itself as a convenor within the broader business community and needs to oppose the House plan to maintain that role. Their opposition also shows the extent to which ideology triumphs self-interest.
3. National Federal of Independent Businesses:
NFIB 12/20 Press Release
REPORTS OF INSURERS’ PROFITS SHOULD DERAIL BEACON HILL HEALTH CARE PROPOSAL (12-20-05)
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)
Contact: Bill Vernon 617-482-1327
Jim Jennings (240) 645-4099
REPORTS OF INSURERS’ PROFITS SHOULD DERAIL BEACON HILL HEALTH CARE PROPOSAL
BOSTON, Dec. 20, 2005 – Media reports that several health insurers and health care providers in Massachusetts have enjoyed healthy profits and maintained sizeable reserves during 2005 brought an immediate reaction from members of the small-business community.
“Small-business owners’ first reaction is that the health care reform proposal on Beacon Hill is headed in the wrong direction,” said Bill Vernon, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, the state’s largest small-business advocacy organization.
“The proposals before the conference committee include cost relief for providers and insurers and shift the costs onto the employers in the state. Employers already pay billions to cover their employees and have incurred double digit increases for health insurance premiums over the past several years,” he said.
“The year-end figures should give pause to conference committee members. It is outrageous – as is now apparent—that small-business owners on Main Street across the Commonwealth, and their employees who have been sharing the burden of increased costs, have been forced, in effect, to pad the bottom lines of a lot of insurers and hospitals. Is it any wonder that these increased costs have resulted in slower job growth here,” he added.
“True health care reform means cost containment, not cost shifting, so that small employers – the backbone of the Massachusetts economy—and their employees can afford quality health care.”
Comment: No surprise here. NFIB is the business group that played a crucial role in killing the Clinton health plan in 1994, and is the most reliable Republican oriented business organization. Their MA head, Bill Vernon, was the head of the Mass. Republican Party and a Republican member of the MA House of Reps. Interesting to see how they are taking direct shots at health insurers and providers.