The construction industry is divided over the landmark health care bill approved by the Senate on Dec. 24, primarily because of a provision that would require small construction industry employers to provide health insurance to employees. Employer groups like the Associated General Contractors and the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) say the measure would stifle growth and make it harder for small businesses to survive, particularly during difficult economic times. Labor unions, on the other hand, say the provision, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), fixes a loophole that would have exempted most of the construction industry—largely made up of small firms—from being required to provide coverage.
The Senate passed the legislation to overhaul the nation’s health-care system early on Christmas Eve by a party-line, 60-39 vote. The focus now will turn to the negotiations between Senate and House conferees to reconcile the newly passed Senate bill with the version the House cleared in November. That compromise would then require passage by the full House and Senate.