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Business Groups Offer Obama Their Health Reform Blueprint

A group of business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Monday that urged him to take a different tack on his just-released health care reform blueprint.

While the letter endorses a number of provisions included in the White House’s reform plan, such as insurance market reform, it rejects proposed mandates and taxes that Democrats say are needed to substantially reduce the number of uninsured.

The business groups reject that approach.

“We strongly urge you to avoid the punitive approach taken by the House and Senate-passed bills and instead focus on a fresh approach that places top priority on immediately reducing the cost of care and coverage for all,” stated the letter.

“Americans want solutions that are equitable and do not favor one group or constituency over another,” the letter added. “They desire more competition and choice in coverage options, and again, these solutions must lower costs.”

The White House released its blueprint Monday before a bipartisan health care reform summit was set to begin on Thursday.

Aside from insurance market reform, the groups suggested a health package include incentives for wellness and preventive programs, insurance exchanges and multi-state purchasing, medical malpractice reform, tax parity on health premiums, and health information technology advancements.

The groups, however, did not include a number of the controversial items in Obama’s plan, such as a mandate that individuals buy health insurance and that a fee be levied on companies with more than 50 employees that do not provide health insurance if any of the workers applies for subsidized insurance. The Obama plan also would levy taxes on expensive, or “Cadillac,” health plans.

The letter was signed by the heads of a number of prominent business trade organizations, including R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president of government affairs for the Chamber of Commerce; Karen Kerrigan, president of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council; E. Neil Trautwein, vice president of employee benefits policy for the National Retail Federation; Jade West, senior vice president of government relations for the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors; Jay Timmons, executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers; and Geoffrey Burr, vice president of government affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors.

The groups’ recommendations are not surprising since last year the chamber and many others were among the top opponents of the Democratic health care reform plans. The chamber alone spent millions of dollars on lobbying and television spots to influence the debate.

The business groups said the precise legislative details would determine their support for subsequent legislation. And they urged more transparency in further consideration of the issue.

“Backroom deals and special interest carve outs will not increase public confidence in these efforts,” the letter warned.

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