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Weekly Column: I'm Still Waiting, Mr. President

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By Phil Roe

Last week I joined my colleague Rep. Richard Hudson (R-NC) to host a field hearing in Concord, North Carolina. The hearing, titled "Health Care Challenges Facing North Carolina's Workers and Job Creators," examined how President Obama's health care law will affect small businesses. Currently, around 160 million Americans receive health insurance through their employer. As you may know, Obamacare requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to provide government-approved insurance to their employees or they will be forced to pay a penalty. The law goes on to define a full-time employee as someone who works 30 or more hours each week. With nearly 12 million Americans out of work, it is becoming more and more clear that we can't afford this law -- in part because it inhibits job creators' ability to run their businesses.

Of the 12 million unemployed, 4.5 million men and women have been out of work for more than 6 months. Similarly, the number of Americans in the workforce is at its lowest level in 34 years. This should be a call to action to empower job creators and encourage economic growth, but the president's health care law will only discourage them. For example, Ken Conrad, who owns Libby Hill Seafood in Greensboro, NC, testified at our hearing that he employs 32 full-time employees and 109 part-time employees based on the new definition of what is a full time employee under the health care law. Ken offers full medical benefits and pays 80 percent of the premiums, but only ten employees opt into the coverage. Ken's business is now close to being considered a large employer under the law, which leaves him with tremendous uncertainty. In his testimony, Mr. Conrad asked a great question: will small employers who continue to grow and create jobs actually be penalized for that growth? It's possible that on December 31, 2014, for example, he wouldn't be required to offer coverage and a day later on January 1, 2015, the opposite could hold true.

Until this and several other questions surrounding the law's implementation are answered, employers could possibly hold off on expanding their businesses or hiring new employees. This is unacceptable, and the restaurant industry isn't the only one suffering. We heard from a representative in the electronics industry, a textile business owner that's been in business for 66 years, the director of a justice center, the supermarket industry and a community college. After last week's hearing it's even clearer that this law has far-reaching effects, and the American people deserve better.

On July 29, 2009, I sent a letter to President Obama after he said he'd go over the health care bill "line-by-line" with any member of Congress that had concerns. That same day, then-White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said he would forward the letter to scheduling and "get it done." As a physician practicing in a state with its own government-run health insurance, TennCare, I felt I could offer some valuable feedback during the debate. I reached out to the president again on September 18, as well as on December 10, 2009. To date, the president has not offered to sit down and meet. After Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat senator from Montana, stated in a Senate Finance Committee hearing that implementing the president's law would be a "train wreck," it occurs to me that President Obama would be in a much better position had he kept his promise of an open, honest debate. My offer to meet still stands.

Obamacare will forever change the way we deliver health care in this country, but please rest assured I will continue to fight for a better solution that actually addresses the exploding cost of health insurance. The president could show real leadership by acknowledging the flaws in his plan, allowing Congress to repeal this unpopular health care law and start over, and engaging both parties to actually solve the real problems in our health care system. I stand ready to meet at his convenience.

Please feel free to contact my office if we can be of assistance to you or your family.


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