Shocked By Re-Emergence Of Public Option, Business Groups Push Back
Business leaders who thought they had dodged a bullet when the Senate Finance Committee decided against offering a government-run public option as part of their health bill are pushing back after the plan's re-emergence.
The Wall Street Journal reports that several groups, including the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce began this week to lobby lawmakers to drop the option. President Obama will meet with small-business owners today to argue that the reform will allow them to control costs. "Large employers are concerned that the plan will end up raising their health-insurance costs. They believe that if the government pays doctors and hospitals at lower rates than do private insurance companies, the health industry would try to pass the cost on to those with private insurance." Small businesses too are mostly against the plan, as is their group, the National Federation of Independent Business. Some small-business groups, though with decidedly less clout than the NFIB, are for the plan, including the Small Business Majority (Adamy, 10/29).
Politico reports that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several other business groups sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell that said they support reform efforts, but not just any reform offering. "None of the points are particularly new. The letter mainly serves as a not so subtle reminder of what the business community wants from reform. The message: It's getting late and unless we start seeing some progress, you won't have our support" (Frates, 10/28).
Meanwhile, the GOP is urging business groups to speak their mind freely on the reform if they oppose it, The Hill reports. They are focusing on the NFIB and the Business Roundtable to take a more active approach. "Senate Republican leaders on Oct. 20 called representatives from the Business Roundtable, NFIB and other business groups to a meeting at the Capitol to find out what they planned to do during the upcoming Senate floor debate on healthcare reform, according to sources familiar with the session." Senate Republicans are worried that deals between Democrats and the pharmaceutical industry (and one suspected with the American Hospital Association) may be harming efforts to criticize the reform bills (Bolton, 10/28).