The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the biggest opponents of Barack Obama’s healthcare reform effort, says it plans to spend $50 million to influence the November midterm elections.
This push follows on the heels of the $144 million ad campaign the business organization used to try to defeat the unpopular healthcare legislation prior to its March 21 passage by a close 220-212 vote.
Although the first battle of the healthcare reform fight may be over, chamber President Tom Donohue told his board of directors in a March 29 letter: “The Chamber is going to carry a message across the country that says the healthcare debate is not over.”
Since the law passed many opponents have called for its repeal and replacement, but Donohue stopped short, saying an effort to repeal the bill “outright is not realistic.” Instead, Donohue favors an effort to “reform the reform” and stave off some of the law’s more onerous provisions such as the individual and employer mandates, as well as some of its taxes.
“While some discuss repeal, the U.S. Chamber believes a more effective approach is to work through all available and appropriate avenues—regulatory, legislative, legal, and political—to fix the bill’s flaws and minimize its harmful impacts,” Donohue wrote in an article titled: “What’s Next For Health Care” in the chamber’s magazine.
The $50 million drive to influence voters decisions in the fall midterms is only one aspect of the chamber’s plan to keep the heat up on healthcare in Washington.
Other aspects of the plan detailed in Donohue’s letter include:
- Launching an education effort to alert Americans about how the new 2,800-page law will impact the nation’s healthcare system and its economic impact;
- Assigning staff to participate in the writing of the thousands of pages of federal regulations that will implement the law’s provisions, suggesting language to minimize its harmful affects on business;
- Taking legal action against regulations it believes exceed the legislative mandates; And, lobbying future Congresses to fix objectionable parts of the law.
Donohue contends these measures are necessary because the new law will further explode the national debt and budget deficit while simultaneously undermining economic prosperity.
“This $950 billion, 2,800-page bill fails to fix what’s broken and risks breaking what works,” Donohue wrote in the magazine. “Raising taxes by $569 billion as the nation grapples with nearly 10% unemployment and struggles to emerge from a deep recession is an affront to economic common sense.”
The end result will be higher premiums and a reduced quality of healthcare services, he wrote.
Companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Caterpillar have announced hundreds of millions in charges against their first-quarter earnings in response to the law’s passage because of anticipated increased healthcare costs stemming from the law’s passage. Although the law’s coverage mandate provisions do not take effect until 2013, these companies have announced these charges now because of accounting rules.
House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Henry Waxman has scheduled an April hearing to look into their actions, but Donohue said Waxman and others are looking for scapegoats for the messes they have made.
Donohue takes particular objection with the accounting tricks the Congressional Budget Office used to estimate the law would reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over 10 years and by $1.1 trillion over 20 years. The CBO reached this number by using assumptions about Medicare savings he considers unrealistic.
Subsequent to its initial findings, CBO disclosed that all of the projected Medicare savings anticipated by the Democrats and the administration would disappear if the current Medicare doctor payment rates are extended. This chamber estimates this would cause a 21 percent cut in doctor reimbursements, which is likely because the administration and congressional leaders have signaled their intent to extend current payment rates, wiping out the projected savings.
Congressional leaders and the administration knew about this before they voted, yet they continued their public line about the legislation cutting the federal deficit over the next 20 years, which is particularly objectionable, Donohue said.
“Future Congresses are unlikely to make good on the cuts and even some of the taxes anticipated in this bill. Thus, its true cost will be closer to $2 trillion at a time when the nation is already drowning in red ink. Bankrupting our children’s future is just not right!” Donohue wrote in the magazine. “Glitches in the new bill are already popping up. The sweetheart deals that were cut to secure the last votes in the House are coming to light. At least a dozen states are developing legal challenges.
“The Senate already spent a week debating changes to a bill that was signed just days ago. This is what happens when you rush and ram through such a sweeping piece of legislation.”
Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan criticized the chamber’s plans in an interview with Talking Points Memo.
“Now that healthcare decisions are in their hands, the American people will not be fooled and aren’t going to hand over their healthcare to the insurance industry ever again -- no matter how much money its front groups like the chamber spend or how many lies they tell,” Sevugan said.
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