Business Leaders Outraged As Health Care Reform Moves To Senate

The House's 275-151 vote passage of the Norwood-Dingell health-care reform bill Oct. 7, which expands individuals' ability to sue their group health plans, sets up a confrontation with the Senate when negotiators for the two chambers meet in a conference committee to resolve differences in their two bills. The Senate passed a far milder measure, which included no new rights to sue, in July. The conference also will include a discussion of differing measures passed by each chamber calling for controversial tax breaks to make insurance more affordable to individuals and small companies. Some observers speculate that the conference could extend into next year. Meanwhile, business groups have been vocal in denouncing passage of the Norwood-Dingell legislation. "Lawmakers who voted in favor of the Norwood-Dingell bill can expect to hear from manufacturers and their employees in their districts the minute health-care costs go up, which they inevitably will," says Patrick Cleary, the National Assn. of Manufacturers' vice president for human-resource policy. Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, comments: "Norwood-Dingell will move medical decision making to the courtroom. Lawsuits equal higher costs, which equals less coverage, and we are on the slippery slope to single-payer socialized medicine." Dan Danner, vice president of federal public policy for the National Federation of Independent Business, says: "Those who voted to pass the Norwood-Dingell bill delivered a gift to the trial bar -- and small businesses and their employees will be stuck with the tab."

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