US chemical firms voice concerns over healthcare reform

17 September 2009 21:02  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Proposed health insurance reform legislation could undermine employer-sponsored coverage and worsen employee healthcare, US chemical producers warned on Thursday.

Chemical manufacturers, particularly smaller specialty and batch producers, are concerned that a federal mandate that would force everyone to carry health insurance could increase the regulatory, tax and costs burdens on companies.

Congress is considering two major bills that would implement major changes in the way US citizens obtain health insurance coverage privately or through their employers.

One bill, HR-3200, titled “America’s Affordable Health Choice Act”, has drawn fire from a wide variety of manufacturing interests who contend that its sweeping provisions would increase costs and limit healthcare choices.

In a letter to House of Representatives leaders circulated on Thursday, the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) joined other chemical companies and trade groups in arguing that the bill contains “numerous provisions that increase the requirements and burdens on employer-sponsored coverage and limit employer flexibility to meet the needs of their workforce”.

The letter contends that HR-3200 would undermine the country’s employer-sponsored healthcare system by “requiring employers to meet federal one size fits all standards”.

The bill’s provisions would require all employers to provide health insurance matching government coverage standards, or pay an 8% payroll tax. 

It also would impose as much as a 5.4% surtax on all individuals - including small business owners who are not incorporated as separate commercial entities - with incomes above $350,000 (€238,000).

“These taxes would hinder job creation and retention in small businesses, making it impossible for them to operate,” the letter to Congress said.

“These provisions will raise costs for both employers and employees without improving quality or efficiency” in healthcare or coverage, the SOCMA letter added.

In the appeal also signed by Dow Chemical, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the US Chamber of Commerce, the society cautioned that the bill would encourage further and varying health insurance regulatory policies among the 50 states and create more litigation.

A second major health insurance reform bill was introduced on Wednesday. That Senate measure, not yet numbered but titled America’s Healthy Future Act, also would impose an insurance coverage mandate as well as taxes and penalties on individuals and companies that do not, respectively, purchase or provide coverage.

($1 = €0.68)

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By: Joe Kamalick
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