The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry Offers Perspective On Governor's Health-Care Plan

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, UNITED STATES


HARRISBURG, Pa., March 21, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, along with a small business owner, cautioned lawmakers about shifting a disproportionate share of the funding for the cost of health care to the business community.

PA Chamber Director of Government Affairs Brian Kelly, along with Dale Kaplan, owner of Kaplan's Careful Cleaners in Camp Hill, testified this morning before the House Republican Policy Committee on the potential impact of aspects of the Rendell administration's health-care reform plan.

The PA Chamber has not taken an official position on the proposal. Kelly said while some concepts -- increasing access to health-care coverage, improving quality and better controlling the cost of services -- are supported by the business community, certain provisions raise concerns. Those concerns include the impact and legality of the proposed payroll tax; the need for greater emphasis on reducing the drivers of health-care costs, including lawsuit abuse and mandated benefits; the lack of focus on health savings accounts/consumer driven-health care; and the overall cost of the program, including its reliance on declining funding sources and revenue assumptions.

"In short, the proposal places too much emphasis on shifting who is responsible for paying the costs of health-care insurance rather than reducing the intrinsic costs of the health-care system itself," said Kelly, who pointed out that Pennsylvania employers who commercially insure for health care already pay in excess of $27 billion per year.

Kaplan asked lawmakers to consider the cost of all compliance mandates placed on business by government when debating health-care reform.

"Compliance costs are real dollars off the net profit line of small business," Kaplan said. "I know that I speak for many small businesses when I say, 'no new taxes!' Small business represents 60 percent of net new jobs on an annual basis. Do not put another onerous tax on our backs that will affect our decisions to hire, expand, and our ability to be profitable."

Just as many other small business owners have done, Kaplan has had to change the structure of his business' medical coverage over the past few years. As the per-month premium rate climbed to $448 per employee, Kaplan said his group size dropped from "12 to four covered lives."

"Most owner-operators of dry cleaning stores work right alongside their employees and other family members, and everyone is like a family," he said. "I hate seeing our employees go without health-care coverage. I have bought glasses and helped them privately with additional expenses because I care about them as people."

Kaplan called the cost of health care "outrageous," and said if the governor's proposal passes, he would seriously consider dropping his employer-sponsored health insurance plan and enroll in the proposed Cover All Pennsylvanians program to insure himself and his employees.

The potential for employers to drop coverage and opt into the state plan is another one of the PA Chamber's concerns.

Kelly said doing so would further exacerbate the costs of Cover All Pennsylvanians, causing a huge acceleration in future years.

"We all know the system is broken," Kaplan concluded. "Please do not let the governor try to fix it at the expense of small business."

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, serving more than 24,000 members and customers statewide. More information is available on the PA Chamber's website at www.pachamber.org.

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry logo is available at http://media.primezone.com/prs/single/?pkgid=353



        

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