Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Analysis: Current HC Undermined by Democrats' Government Takeover


Detailed Analysis

Democrats’ number one talking point about health care is that if you like your current health coverage, you can keep it. 

That would be reassuring if it were true, but it is not. 

In fact, their legislation would undermine the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA), putting government bureaucrats in charge of decisions that should be made by small businesses and other employers working with their employees. 

House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH), who worked on ERISA-related issues for years as Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, made the following comment:

“Real health care reform should start with the Hippocratic Oath: first, do no harm.

But the Democrats’ government takeover legislation will undermine the law that has guaranteed American workers quality retirement security and health coverage for decades. 

We can do better.  We need to hit the ‘reset’ button, scrap this leviathan of a bill, and work together on bipartisan reforms that make sense.”

Here are just a few examples of how the House Democrats’ bill erodes the ability of small businesses, other employers, and workers to exercise their rights and obligations under ERISA:

  • Section 142 – The House bill says that after a five-year grace period all ERISA insurance offerings will have to win government approval—both by the Department of Labor and a new “Health Choices Commissioner” who will set federal standards for what is an acceptable health plan. The commissioner can fine employers that don’t comply and even has “suspension of enrollment” powers for plans that he or she has vetoed, until “satisfied that the basis for such determination has been corrected and is not likely to recur.” 
  • Section 261 – This section, included in the Chairman’s Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute at the Education and Labor Committee markup, provides for automatic federal waivers to ERISA for states that enact single-payer health care systems.  Waivers to ERISA would preclude employers from offering consistent benefits.  The practical effect of this section is that workers receiving health coverage from the same employer in different states could have wide disparities in coverage. 
  • Sections 132 and 151 – These two sections provide for unlimited state law remedies for employer-sponsored health coverage obtained through health insurance exchanges.  Litigation will increase under this provision, further driving up the cost of health insurance for millions of Americans. 
  • Section 165 – This section, included in the Chairman’s Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute at the Education and Labor Committee markup, prohibits one of the core principles of ERISA, the voluntary nature of employee benefits, by imposing a prohibition on modifications to retiree health plans. 

We can do better, and the American people deserve better.  Let’s toss the Democrats’ government takeover in the dustbin, and work together on the common sense reforms they want and need.

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