Putting a Price Tag on Reform Spreads Unease
Taxes, fees for business and spending cuts could help lawmakers pay the $1-trillion-plus cost of health reform, but those possibilities have spurred a behind-the-scenes lobbying fight on Capitol Hill, and caused a fair share of anxiety among many interest groups, the Los Angeles Times reports. For instance, Anchor Brewing Co., a San Francisco beer-maker, chocolate milk sellers and labor unions have all attacked lawmakers over new tax proposals for liquor, soft drinks and employer-sponsored benefits that would affect their industries.
When Obama suggested raising money by cutting billions of dollars in Medicare spending, insurance companies that provide private Medicare Advantage plans "mobilized thousands of senior citizens." The U.S Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, said, "It seems like employers are the one group getting stuck paying the bill." Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said he expects paying for reform, not the role of government, will become the most contentious issue in the debate (Levey and Hook, 6/11).
Another group, companies that provide Health Savings Accounts, also is concerned reform will cost them, CQ Politics reports. "If Congress, as seems increasingly probable, taxes at least some employer-provided health benefits, contributions to FSAs and HSAs are likely to be part of the calculation as lawmakers set a cap on what portion of the benefits will remain tax-free. That will limit the tax advantages of those plans," and therefore limit their attractiveness to consumers (Rubin, 6/10).
Meanwhile, one group concerned about bearing the brunt of new costs may actually stand to gain from systematic changes: small business. The New York Times reports that a new study by a small business group that focuses on health reform finds "the proposals now being considered could save small companies tens of billions of dollars a year in health care costs even if there is a mandate for employer coverage," by streamlining the purchase of insurance and helping the business get better rates (Abelson, 6/10).