NRF: House healthcare bill 'sure recipe' for job losses

Washington, D.C. The National Retail Federation asked the House on Friday to start over from scratch on its $1 trillion healthcare reform bill, calling the measure “the biggest anti-stimulus legislation imaginable” and saying it would be a “sure recipe” for further job losses during the current national recession.

“The key to reform is reducing both short- and long-term health care and coverage costs without disrupting existing health care,” said NRF senior VP government relations Steve Pfister.

“The House bill fails to meet this objective. We urge Congress to abandon H.R. 3200 and make a fresh start on a better-calibrated and more-affordable bill.”

Pfister said that healthcare reform should not drive up labor costs. “Done wrong, healthcare reform could well become the biggest anti-stimulus legislation imaginable. We cannot afford bad healthcare reform,” he said.

Pfister’s comments came in a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and copied to all members of the House.

Pfister emphasized that the NRF favors reform, and supports the actions of the Blue Dog Coalition of conservative Democrats and their allies in seeking both short- and long-term cost savings. But, he added, more work is needed to secure and expand beyond the agreement reached between Blue Dogs and House leaders.

“Retailers necessarily operate on a short horizon, needing to meet both present payroll obligations and also build and maintain inventory,” Pfister said. “We agree that long-term cost savings are vitally important to our financial future but these are not sufficient to meet retailers’ present day needs.”

Pfister said NRF appreciates a tentative agreement with Blue Dogs to limit the House bill’s employer mandate to companies with annual payrolls of $500,000 and larger, rather than $250,000, but that NRF still cannot support an employer mandate in any form because the increased labor costs could lead to layoffs.

Pfister also said that NRF continues to oppose a publicly sponsored insurance plan, particularly in a form that would reimburse healthcare providers at Medicare rates for the first three years as provided in the version of the House bill approved by the Education and Labor Committee and the Ways and Means Committee.

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