Washington, D.C. The National Retail Federation on Thursday asked the Senate Finance Committee to reject an amendment to its healthcare reform bill that would require the full-scale pay-or-play employer mandate approved this summer by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
“We strongly favor health care reform but disagree with the idea that an employer mandate to provide coverage is necessary to achieve universal coverage or that it would lower coverage costs,” NRF VP and employee benefits policy counsel Neil Trautwein said. “The ‘free-rider’ mandate under consideration by the Finance Committee may be the least onerous of the mandate proposals currently under consideration in Congress, but it would still impose significant additional costs on employers. The mandate passed by the HELP Committee is far worse and will become steadily more expensive over time. We strongly urge the Finance Committee to reject the Kerry-Bingaman amendment.”
The Finance Committee this week is considering the America’s Healthy Future Act, introduced last week by chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. NRF said in a statement that the bill stops short of mandating that employers provide health coverage for workers. If employers fail to offer insurance meeting certain standards for coverage and affordability, workers could join an insurance “exchange” and potentially be eligible for federal subsidies to help them purchase insurance. If that happens, the employer would be required to pay a penalty of up to $400 for each full-time worker employed even if only some were receiving subsidies.
Under an amendment offered by Finance Committee members Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., that requirement would be replaced by the employer mandate included in healthcare reform legislation approved this summer by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Under the HELP bill, employers would be required to offer health insurance to their workers and pay at least 60% of the cost of premiums. Those who don’t would be required to pay a penalty of $750 for each full-time worker and $375 for each part-time worker.