House Passes Health Care Bill; Focus Now on Senate

On Saturday night the House passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act 220 to 215 legislation strongly opposed by AGC of America. Washington State Congressional delegation voted along party lines. AGC made a particular push with Rep. Adam Smith (D) who was considered undecided. Rep Smith however voted in favor of the bill.

AGC of Washington members have been actively involved in the health care debate. Congressman Rick Larsen visited the Northern District Office to discuss the matter with AGC members (see photo below) and recent Southern District dinners have featured Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler and health care policy expert Dr. Roger Stark of the Washington Policy Center. For health care reform analysis by the Washington Policy Center click here.

The debate now shifts to the Senate where Majority Leader Harry Reid is getting Presidential pressure to wrap up the debate before Christmas and Reid may force the senate to possibly work Saturdays in December to debate the bill. However there is still no final bill in the Senate and Senator Reid will not have a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate of his latest draft version of health care reform until the end of this week. With the close House vote the Senate will move a more deliberate and methodical in its approach than the house. Senate moderates who represent states where House members opposed the bill will now feel a tremendous amount of pressure from their constituents which creates one more hurdle Senate Democratic leaders have to overcome in order to convince already skittish moderates to support reform.

AGC of America is strongly opposed to the legislation and encourages all members to contact their representatives in Congress and urge them to oppose the Affordable Health Care for America Act and to work toward finding real solutions to improve options and lower the costs of health care. To contact congressional representatives and to see other background information about health care reform visit AGC of America’s Health Care Reform section of its website. Although the next vote will be in the Senate it is likely that the House will vote on it again when differences between House and Senate versions are ironed out.

AGC opposed the $1 trillion “Affordable Health Care for America Act” because it failed to address the root cause of rising costs will likely eliminate competition and restricts economic growth with punitive penalties for employers. AGC members answered the call to action last week by sending over 4000 letters to Congress in less than 24 hours in opposition to the bill. This response brings this year’s efforts to over 8000 individual messages. As the debate shifts to the Senate AGC of America will again be calling on chapters and members to advocate for affordable quality health care through broader coverage choice and competition in the marketplace.

Key provisions of the House bill include:

• Employers will be subjected to an 8 percent pay roll tax for each employee that does not receive coverage from the employer even if the employer offers adequate benefits – as determined by a government entity – but the employee chooses to enter a government plan.

• Mandated expansive coverage and the existence of the public plan in the legislation will likely eliminate much of the nations’ private insurance. It is not feasible that the government can be both regulator and participant in the health care system.

• The $1 trillion bill will be financed by $460 billion in new taxes and $500 billion in future Medicare cuts. The new taxes include a surtax for individuals with income above $500000. This tax will be especially harsh for businesses structured as pass through entities where the business taxes are paid by the individual company owners making it more difficult for the employer to operate the business and create or even retain jobs.

• The punitive business taxes and new and future mandates on insurance coverage will fail to lower the costs of purchasing health care and could stifle economic growth at a time when the industry is already suffering unemployment that is nearly double the national average.

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Congressman Rick Larsen (second from right) with Frank Imhof (IMCO Construction) AGC Northern District Manager Liz Evans and Steve Isenhart (Tiger Construction) after a lively discussion about health care reform. Although much more civil than other highly publicized and acrimonious town hall meetings on the topic the discussion included several pointed and skeptical questions by several AGC members regarding the cost and scope of health care reform proposals.