FOCUS OF THE WEEK
US Chamber of Congress Sets Sight on 'Fixing' ACA
January 10, 2014, 08:04:01 AM
Katie Sullivan
The US Chamber of Commerce says it aims to include the Affordable Care Act in its list of 2014 objectives. Nearly 2 years ago, the chamber voiced its intent to repeal the health reform bill after it was enacted in 2010.

“When the bill passed, Americans were promised that it would lower costs and allow anyone who liked their existing coverage to keep it. Instead, costs are rising and health plans are being forced to change,” Tom Donohue, CEO and president of the US Chamber of Commerce, had said in 2011.

In recognition of the law’s firm standing, the chamber has shifted its commitment from repealing the law to fixing it.

“The administration is obviously committed to keeping the law in place, so the chamber has been working pragmatically to fix those parts of Obamacare that can be fixed—while doing everything we can to make regulations and mandates as manageable as possible for businesses,” Donohue said in his annual State of American Business address. “In 2014, we will work to repeal onerous healthcare taxes; repeal, delay or change the employer mandate; and give companies and their employees more flexibility in the choice of health insurance plans.”

Also on the chamber’s horizon is entitlement reform. Mr Donohue suggests that the costs of federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are likely to account for 76% of the budget by 2023.

“Demographics are destiny and there’s no way around it,” Mr Donohue said. “Americans are living longer. Each and every day another 10,000 baby boomers retire—and that will add up to 77 million new retirees over the next 17 years.”

One way the chamber is looking to modify the law is in the way that businesses determine if they qualify as a large employer. The chamber represents more than 3 million businesses’ interests.

“Under the statute, applicable large employers—those with 50 or more full-time equivalents—have to offer affordable minimum value coverage to full-time employees, full-time employees being those that work 30 hours or more hours a week,” said Katie Mahoney, executive director of health policy at the chamber. “Historically, full time has been defined as 40 hours a week, and we would like to see that definition be restored.”

Additional changes would include dismantling health insurance and medical device taxes.

As to why the chamber has shifted its focus, Ms Mahoney said that policy matters have changed since 2011. “The landscape’s very different,” she said.

Around the Web

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Calls for Repeal of Obamacare [CNS News]

U.S. Chamber Looks to Fix, Not Repeal Obamacare [Modern Healthcare]