Chamber will push to repair, not repeal, PPACANews added by Benefits Pro on January 10, 2014
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By Allen Greenberg

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will push this year to fix what it views as flaws in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act but has concluded it won’t be able “to get rid of” the health care law.

“The administration is obviously committed to keeping the law in place, so the chamber has been working pragmatically to fix those parts of Obamacare that can be fixed — while doing everything we can to make regulations and mandates as manageable as possible for businesses,” the group’s CEO, Thomas Donohue, said in his annual State of American Business address in Washington. “In 2014, we will work to repeal onerous healthcare taxes; repeal, delay or change the employer mandate; and give companies and their employees more flexibility in the choice of health insurance plans.”

He said employers remained concerned about the “negative impacts” of Obamacare.

“The cancellations that swamped the individual market last year are expected to hit the small business market even harder this year,” Donohue said. “Many firms are stopping new hires and cutting workers’ hours because of the law’s mandates.”

In opposing Obamacare, the chamber repeatedly warned Congress and the administration of the many flaws in this massive legislation, he said.

“The administration is obviously committed to keeping the law in place, so the chamber has been working pragmatically to fix those parts of Obamacare that can be fixed — while doing everything we can to make regulations and mandates as manageable as possible for businesses,” he said.

As a result, in the year ahead, the chamber will work to repeal what it views as “onerous” health care taxes; repeal, delay, or change the employer mandate; and give companies and their employees more flexibility in the choice of health insurance plans.

“All responsible parties need to work together and be more open to change — because this nation still needs true health care reform that controls costs, improves quality, and expands access to the uninsured,” Donohue said.

On other topics, Donohue said the organization plans aggressive efforts to back “pro-business” candidates, some of whom will face Tea Party opponents in Republican primary elections this year.

The chamber, the nation’s largest business-lobbying group and a traditional supporter of Republicans, has in recent years squared off against lawmakers aligned with the Tea Party on issues including trade, U.S. Export-Import Bank reauthorization and the federal budget.

“In 2014, the chamber will work to protect and expand a pro-business majority in the House and advance our position and our influence in the Senate,” Donohue said. “The business community understands what’s at stake.”
In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Donohue said the chamber’s disagreement isn’t with the Tea Party as it was “originally established” to promote small government. Rather, he said, it’s with politicians who have “hitched their trailer to the Tea Party wagon.” Those lawmakers, whom he declined to name, want to shut down the government and not pay U.S. debt, he said. His comments drew a frustrated response from some Tea Party groups which the chamber could find itself pitted against in coming elections -- signaling the growing divide on the political right.

The chamber’s “disconnect” with other Republican groups is its “pro-big-business agenda,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action for America, a Washington nonprofit that advocates for smaller government and is affiliated with the Heritage Foundation think tank led by former South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint.

“If they just wanted to let the private sector thrive, the chamber would have no better friends than conservatives and Tea Party folks,” he said. “If they’re instead content to see business as usual in Washington, that’s where they will run into a ton of resistance not only from conservatives but also independents.”

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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