ObamaCare Is Already Threatening The Economy
Last week, Democrats in Congress rammed through a wildly unpopular healthcare bill before heading out of town to celebrate the accomplishment. As it turns out, not all Americans are celebrating. In the few short days since, a growing wave of U.S. employers have come forward to denounce the massive new costs, hidden problems and bureaucratic hurdles contained in the recently passed healthcare legislation-costs that will choke off job creation and be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices on a wide array of goods and services. Under one deeply misguided provision in Speaker Pelosi's health overhaul legislation, for example, companies will face a costly new tax on prescription drug benefits they provide to retired workers. Those benefits ensure high quality drug coverage for retired seniors and spare the taxpayer the full cost of covering these individuals under the Medicare program. Due to the healthcare bill, though, employers will now face massive new costs, while retirees stand to lose their prescription drug coverage. The legislation hits Illinois particularly hard. Caterpillar, the world's largest manufacturer of construction equipment, expects a $100 million hit, while another bread-and-butter Illinois manufacturer, John Deere, faces $150 million in new costs. Boeing, the world's largest maker of jetliners and military aircraft, anticipates $150 million in new costs as well. All told, benefits consultant Towers Watson estimates that the very companies across America we are asking to create jobs and grow the economy will face $14 billion in lower earnings due to this single provision. Democratic Leaders have responded to this predictable news with surprise, anger and disbelief. Yet in December, in the midst of the healthcare debate, the Chief Financial Officers of major U.S. employers Caterpillar, John Deere, Verizon, Xerox, Boeing and others sent a letter to Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi warning that the proposed new tax would "negatively impact both retirees and companies," raising costs and forcing them to scale back or drop prescription drug coverage for retirees. Democrats disregarded this information as "fearmongering." Saddling these companies with crushing new expenses didn't seem like a good idea during the healthcare debate when many of my colleagues and I opposed it, and now that the Pelosi plan is the law of the land, it's clear why. Realizing the destructive real world impact of this tax change, I submitted an amendment to the bill that would have remedied the situation, preventing retirees from losing the coverage they currently enjoy and protecting employers from large health cost increases. The fact of the matter is the recently passed healthcare legislation leaves employers with less money to pay current employees, less money to invest in research and development, and less money to hire new workers. It's important to remember that it will be months before the public really knows the true cost of this sweeping healthcare legislation, as thousands of programs and regulations are not yet created. Countless new costs will fall to already struggling families and businesses. With a provision that will force up to 2 million seniors off their current prescription drug benefits and cost America's top employers billions, the healthcare bill is off to a rough start. An effective approach to healthcare reform must work to improve the current system, building on what works and replacing what doesn't. Before the healthcare legislation passed, many large employers were doing a good job providing prescription drug benefits to employees. Eliminating this effective approach gets reform exactly wrong and fails to address the many real shortcomings in our healthcare system that urgently need attention, like lowering costs for individuals and improving flexibility and affordability for small businesses. Creating jobs and growing the economy requires legislation that works with families and businesses to improve the nation's healthcare system. That's why we need to repeal the current flawed plan and replace it with reforms that actually reduce healthcare costs.