Late on Saturday evening, November 7, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of health care reform legislation (H.R. 3962, “The Affordable Health Care for America Act”) by a vote of 220 to 215. Thirty-nine Democrats and all but one Republican (Representative Joseph Cao of Louisiana) voted against the bill.
During consideration of the health care bill, the House adopted only one amendment – sponsored by Representative Bart Stupak (D-MI) – to ban the use of federal funds for abortion. The amendment passed by a vote of 240 to 194, with one member voting “present.” This issue is shaping up to be a particularly controversial one as the Senate considers its options for health care reform.
Throughout the debate on health care reform, SHRM members have conveyed that they support reform that:
Strengthens the employer-based health insurance system;
- Advances wellness and health promotion programs;
- Protects the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA);
- Provides affordable coverage to all Americans; and
- Increases access to quality and cost information so that consumers can make better informed decisions.
While the bill that passed the House on Saturday does contain many positive provisions, it fails to achieve many of the goals that SHRM members have said are critical to reform. In some areas, the legislation does not go far enough, especially in the area of containing costs. In other ways, the legislation would create new impediments for employers and employees. For example, the House bill:
Does not include provisions to create greater availability to wellness programs for employees and employers.
Mandates that employers provide and pay for “qualified” health care coverage for their employees. If employers do not provide coverage – or do not provide the specific “qualified” coverage at an “affordable” price, as determined by the federal government, they must pay an 8 percent payroll tax.
Erodes the effectiveness of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by applying state law to employer- purchased coverage in a health insurance exchange; prohibits post-retirement reductions of retiree health benefits by group health plans, unless reductions are also made to active employees’ health benefits; and requires employer-sponsored plans to meet detailed federal requirements. These changes would likely result in additional costs and burdens on multi-state employers who could face different rules in different states.
Establishes a public insurance plan option that, as currently drafted in the House bill, could result in cost-shifting to private plans, potentially increasing costs for both employers and employees.
SHRM’s position on H.R. 3962
SHRM’s position on H.R. 3962 is consistent with our Health Care Public Policy Statement, which was developed in close consultation with our members through various surveys, focus groups, input from SHRM Special Expertise Panels and approval by the Board of Directors.
To ensure that our public policy statement was reflective of the membership’s views on health care reform as the national debate began to unfold, SHRM held a series of health care forums, beginning in December 2008, in each of the five SHRM regions. These forums confirmed that HR professionals were supportive of reform that adhered to the core principles outlined in the Society’s position statement.
This rigorous, member-driven process helped to ensure that the health care position SHRM is advocating in Congress is consistent with the views espoused by a majority of our 250,000+ members.
SHRM’s Side-by-Side Comparison
Following the House vote, SHRM’s Governmental Relations department revised its health care side-by-side chart to give you an easy-to-read comparison of the versions of health care reform that are in play. The focus now moves to the Senate, where debate could begin on the issue later in November.