Industry groups and GOP leaders are critical of President Obama’s health-care proposal, which was unveiled on Feb. 22. But the White House calls the proposal a “starting point” and says it hopes congressional leaders from both parties will make some progress in kick-starting the stalled negotiations at a Feb. 25 summit.

The proposal seeks to bridge the gap between the legislation passed by the House in November and the Senate on Dec. 24. Its framework is built on the Senate bill but includes several key changes. Among them, it calls for increasing the penalty—to $2,000 from $750 per worker—for employers that do not provide health benefits. It also increases the threshold for excise taxes on so-called Cadillac plans and would delay their enactment until 2018. Construction industry groups say, overall, the President’s proposal does little to address the skyrocketing costs of health-care and takes too punitive an approach toward employers.

Negotiators should consider tort reform and allowing companies to purchase insurance through association health plans.
— Steve Hall, ACEC

Steve Hall, the American Council of Engineering Companies’ vice president of government affairs, says, “The President is still not embracing proposals that will help engineering companies and others that are already providing health insurance to control the costs of that insurance.” To that end, the White House and congressional leaders should consider tort reform and allow companies to purchase insurance through association health plans, he says. Those ideas have been floated by some Republicans but thus far have not been embraced by the White House, Hall says.

Brewster Bevis, the Associated Builders and Contractors’ senior director of legislative affairs, says the White House and congressional leaders should “start over...and get to the nuts and bolts of what the American people want: lowering the costs of health care for employers and employees.”

President’s plan
Increase threshold for excise tax of “Cadillac” plans and delays their implementation.
Increase penalty for employers that do not provide health benefits from $750 to $2,000 per worker.
Creates a new Health Insurance Rate Authority to oversee and help states that are conducting reviews of unreasonable rate increases.
Source: white house

GOP leaders say they plan to attend the Feb. 25 summit but are skeptical about its outcome. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) plans to attend but says, “The longer Washington sticks with its failed approach to health care, the longer Americans will have to wait for the real, step-by-step reforms that will actually lower costs and lead to a better system.”

Unions say they support the President’s proposal and that the ball is in the GOP’s court. Republicans “have the opportunity to stand with working families or continue to protect the profits of the insurance industry,” says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.