WASHINGTON, D.C. | February 9, 2011 -
Today’s hearing is the first opportunity for this committee to take a close look at the consequences of the health care reform bill that was signed into law last year.
It has been less than a year and already this 2,700 page law has led to more than 4,000 pages in new government regulations. A proposal designed to reduce health care costs will instead increase national health care spending by $311 billion. And during a time of stubbornly high unemployment, job creators are forced to wrestle with the uncertainty of what the law and its new regulations mean and how that all fits into their plans for the future.
Employers already struggling to keep their doors open now must choose between higher health care costs or costly penalties. To suggest this doesn’t undermine job creation is to deny reality.
Recently, a number of small business owners were asked how they are adjusting to the new health care law. Their answers help provide a snapshot of what our economy is facing and will continue to face if this law isn’t replaced.
Blake Haynie, resident of Georgia and owner of Actions Signs, Inc., said “I will lay off the necessary number of employees to cover the extra costs.”
Gary Crosby, who owns Gary Crosby Construction in my home state of Minnesota, said he will “have fewer employees.”
Catherine Marsh of Botkins, Ohio replied: “Reducing staff, cutting benefits.”
And Darcey Gunn of Loveland, Colorado declared, “I have never laid off any employees. The last thing I need is more expenses. This is the wrong time to hurt small business owners. I will have to pull the plug.”
These are honest responses to a government takeover of one-sixth of the economy. Behind every story of a small business owner struggling to meet the demands of the law’s mandates and penalties is the reality of a workforce with fewer jobs and opportunities for workers and families.
I anticipate supporters of the law will have their own stories to share as they seek to convince the American people that meaningful health care reforms are only possible as part of a costly government takeover. The American people reject this false choice and we are here today to begin fulfilling our promise to find a better way.
Today we will also examine what changes the law is imposing on employer-sponsored health care plans. This committee has broad jurisdiction over health insurance provided through the workplace, coverage that affects roughly 170 million Americans.
By the administration’s own estimates, up to 69 percent of all business health plans and 80 percent of small business health plans will soon see significant changes to the benefits they provide. This has the potential to undermine the health care coverage of tens of millions of Americans. We need to understand what those changes are and how insurers, employers, and individuals are responding.
If there is one business that has benefited from the new law it is the booming waiver business operating at the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS has issued 733 waivers that exempt the health care plans of various businesses, organizations, and unions from the law’s requirements. No one can be faulted for seeking an exemption. It is, however, interesting to see so many who extol the virtues of the Democrats’ health care law now seeking relief from it.
This is one of the many areas of this vast law that calls for further exploration. I want to thank our witnesses for being here today; we look forward to your testimony.