Divisions Emerge Among Dem Lawmakers, Business Groups
As the health care debate intensifies, divisions among lawmakers, competing lobbies and interest groups are increasingly tense. "The health care battle in Congress is getting hotter, fueled by growing opposition to taxing health insurance benefits, mandating small-business coverage and cutting Medicare payments and by creeping doubts about a public plan for the uninsured. And this is just among Democrats," the Washington Times reports. Notably, last week the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of conservative Democrats, objected to the cost of an anticipated House reform proposal and said it would hurt small businesses, a key constituency already reeling from the recession. The objection stalled the House, which delayed releasing the proposal (Lambro, 7/14).
The anxiety of the business community is taking form in a fight between Wal-Mart and the National Retail Federation, which represents both large and smaller employers, over whether businesses should be forced to provide some type of insurance to employees. "'Come out swinging,' Tracy Mullin, chief executive of the federation, said in a letter to group members. 'To truly lead on the health care debate, it is imperative that businesses, associations and politicians take a stand where it counts and not shy away from deal-breakers like employer mandates,'" Bloomberg reports.
"Opponents call [Wal-Mart's stand] a self-serving position for Wal-Mart that would be cost-prohibitive for smaller employers," the Kansas City Star reports. "Runaway health insurance costs aren't affordable for many small-business operators, leaving millions of employees to search and pay for coverage on their own, if they can get it all" (Stafford, 7/14).