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August Deadline for Health Care Reform Slipping

July 30, 2009

The National Small Business Association (NSBA), SBAM’s national affiliate, reports that with health care reform deliberations stalled in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the delayed release of a Senate Finance Committee bill, President Obama, along with House and Senate Democrat leaders, has recently acknowledged the slim probability that health care reform legislation will pass each chamber before the targeted August recess.
As previously reported, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and two out of three House Committees have passed their versions of health care reform legislation. Meanwhile, conservative democrats in the House who are part of The Blue Dog Coalition have raised concerns with several provisions in the House bill, including provisions that have a profound impact on small businesses. The Senate Finance Committee is still mulling details of their bill before they schedule a mark-up, which they hope to do before their August 7 target adjournment.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) recently noted that the July 31 target adjournment and goal to pass health care reform legislation for the House of Representatives is getting more difficult since the Energy and Commerce Committee has not reported a bill. Hoyer has promised the caucus 48 hours to review the bill before a floor vote; thus, theoretically the Energy and Commerce Committee will have to finish their mark-up by COB July 29 for a vote to take place on July 31. House Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Hoyer suggested they could stay into August for a floor vote if they felt there was a possibility of getting consensus on the Energy and Commerce Committee to move forward soon.
NSBA has made a strong advocacy push with the Blue Dog Coalition since several of their concerns with the House bill pertain to the impact it would have on small business. Click here to read NSBA’s recent letter sent to The Blue Dog Coalition. In addition, if your member of Congress is part of the Blue Dog Coalition, use NSBA’s Legislative Action Center to contact their office to show your support for their efforts.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) also recently acknowledged the unlikelihood that the Finance Committee would mark-up a bill and have it reconciled with the Senate HELP bill and ready for a Senate floor vote prior to August 7.
Despite the delay in producing a proposal, the Senate Finance Committee has continued to offer the greatest hope of a bipartisan health care reform proposal. However, efforts to avoid capping the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance have caused delays for the Committee in finding cost-containment measures and off-sets. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) recently proposed taxing health insurance companies who offer high-cost benefit plans, also known as “Cadillac” plans, to encourage more consumer behavior and reduce the cost of health care reform. NSBA recently sent a letter to Senate Finance Committee members in support on capping the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance and raising significant concerns with Sen. Kerry’s proposal. Click here to view the letter.
While NSBA and other health care reform proponents continue to advocate with members of Congress, small business owners should be weighing in with their elected officials. The August recess will provide a great opportunity to discuss your concerns with members of Congress.

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