The Chamber of Commerce has been vehemently opposed to the health care reform bills that have been debated in the House and Senate this year, so it isn’t much of a surprise to see that they are raising money to pay an economist who can “prove” that the proposed reform would increase unemployment and harm the US economy.
I visited the website of the Campaign for Responsible Health Reform, which is run by the US Chamber of Commerce. I read through their issues and implications page, along with the FAQ page, and was struck by the negativity of the whole thing. They continue to reiterate their main points – that proposed reform will eliminate jobs and undermine our current system of employer sponsored health insurance – and highlight negative reactions from Chamber members throughout the website. It took a bit of searching before I finally found their proposed solution. It’s not original, nor is it particularly well thought-out. They advocate three ideas: reducing health care costs by utilizing any or all of the currently proposed means, implementing guaranteed issue health insurance, and setting up a streamlined marketplace that would simplify shopping for health insurance.
I think it’s interesting that guaranteed issue health insurance is one of their main points, but they have no proposal to make sure that everyone carries health insurance. You would think that an organization devoted to private business would understand the implications for private health insurance if we end up with a system that provides guaranteed health insurance without mandating coverage.
The Chamber is adamant that currently proposed reform will undermine employer-sponsored health insurance. But our current system is already undermining it. In 2000, 68.3% of Americans under age 65 got their health insurance through an employer. Last year, that number was down to 61.9%. And I would be shocked it that number hasn’t dropped again this year, given the state of the economy. Here in Colorado, average group health insurance premiums are rising faster than the national average, so we’re likely to see even more of a decline in employer-sponsored coverage than other parts of the country.
I would be a lot more interested in what the Chamber has to say if their website was full of positive ideas and creative solutions aimed at lowering costs and expanding health insurance coverage to all Americans. It seems that they have devoted so much time and energy to criticizing the proposed reforms that they forgot to focus on solutions of their own. It makes me wonder if they’re seeing the same problems as the rest of us: problems like 62% of bankruptcies being attributed to medical debt, and the tens of millions of Americans who have no health insurance at all.