Small Business, Labor and Insurance Groups Express Opinions On Health Reform 'Must-Haves'

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a majority of small business owners in California support health reform. "A solid majority - 61 percent of 700 California small businesses that participated in a survey released Tuesday - said health care reform is needed now to get the economy on track. Of the 55 percent of businesses in the random poll that said they do not provide health coverage, 86 percent cited high cost as the reason." Nationwide, small businesses "pay an average of 18 percent more for the same health coverage as large firms. Even in California, where state law requires the insurer to charge small firms a rate that is within 10 percent of that charged all small groups, businesses with relatively few employees have been hit with dramatic premium increases in recent years." The survey was commissioned by Small Business Majority, an advocacy and research group in Sausalito (Colliver, 9/2).

Meanwhile, CBS News reports that the AFL-CIO released a new survey of young workers yesterday, which "found that 31 percent of workers under 35 report being uninsured, up from 24 percent 10 years ago. Counter to arguments that young people do not want to pay for insurance, 79 percent of the uninsured said they do not have coverage because they cannot afford it or their employer does not offer it" (Condon, 9/1).

Politico reports that The AFL-CIO's incoming president, Richard Trumka, outlined "three absolute musts" in any overhaul package: "the public option, an employer mandate and no taxes on employer-provided health care." Asked if the union would work against any bill that did not hit those targets, Trumka told reporters during a briefing: "That means we won't support the bill if it doesn't have the public option." For President Obama, the statements mean that "any agreement would need to thread the needle between a liberal base that has become more insistent in recent weeks on the inclusion of a public option and a Republican Party that has all but closed the door on a government insurance plan or anything resembling it" (Brown, 9/1).

The Hill: "An alternative being offered by centrist Democrats to the plan, insurance cooperatives, are 'too weak' and are 'not ready for primetime,' Trumka said" (Bogardus, 9/1).

USA Today reports that health care lobbyists are boosting major players in the health care debate. "When Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley staged a $1,000-per-person fundraiser at a Capitol Hill restaurant in June, insurance company Aflac helped to host. Later that week, lobbyists for physicians' groups attended a fundraiser for Rep. George Miller, D-Calif." Contributions are on the rise. "As the debate intensifies in Congress, health care sector contributions to lawmakers on the committees overseeing the massive change to the nation's health care system are on the upswing — rising 8% between the first and second quarter of the year, according to data compiled by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics." The article includes a table showing "$8.1 million in health care industry donations during the first and second quarters of 2009 to lawmakers who serve on the five committees that oversee health policy in Congress" (Schouten, 9/2).

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