ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf Reports: Senate Finance Committee negotiators, seeking middle ground on health reform – a way to pay for an overhaul and a way to control insurance companies without a public insurance option – got an attaboy today from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In a letter addressed to committee leaders Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the Chamber’s vice president for government affairs encourages the panel to continue its bipartisan negotiations and to report a bill before leaving for August.
The Chamber, which represents businesses, is opposed to the health overhaul proposal being pushed by Democrats in the House. That bill, which pays for reform by taxing the very rich and creating a public option to compete with the private market, would not drive down costs, they argue, and would drive private insurers out of business.
It is not surprising that the Chamber would oppose House Democrats. But the letter would seem to put the Chamber at odds with many Republicans in the Senate, too. They have encouraged a return to the drawing board. Says Josten in the letter: "Businesses, as providers of health care benefits, continue to see health care costs rise far in excess of GDP growth or inflation. The cost trajectory is clearly unsustainable. "The Chamber encourages the Senate Finance Committee to focus on consensus areas that can accomplish the goal of comprehensive, bipartisan health care reform. Chief among these should be initiatives to improve quality and lower costs, introducing fair regulation of the insurance market, and facilitating a competitive marketplace for consumers. The Chamber also believes that it is important for the Committee to act promptly, preferably before the August recess, to approve a bi-partisan bill consistent with these principles, as it is now apparent that we will be forced to oppose the legislation being considered by the House. The business community vitally needs better policy alternatives to be proposed by Congress."