Businesses Will Be Off the Hook for Providing Employee Health Benefits in Bipartisan Budget Deal
President Obama and Congressional leaders propose deal that would repeal not yet in effect automatic enrollment in health programs for employees working for large companies
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: After meeting in secret for some time, the White House and Congressional leaders unveiled their proposed budget deal on Tuesday.
HARRY REID: While this agreement is not perfect, it does address both investment and domestic priorities that benefit the middle class, and defense spending.
DESVARIEUX: Defense spending and domestic spending will soar by about $80 billion above the levels of the yearly automatic cuts, also known as sequestration. But to get spending up across the board Obama and Democratic leaders agreed to repeal a major part of the president’s signature bill, the Affordable Care Act. Under the new agreement, large employers with 200 or more employees will no longer have to automatically enroll their employees in their health plan.
DR. MARGARET FLOWERS: I guess what we’re really moving to is a purely privatized system where people are on private health insurance, where we’re moving towards private health insurance monopolies, as we see more of the large insurers merging. And a shift of more of the cost of healthcare onto the individual so that insurers can charge premiums and profit from them, but continue to force individuals to have a lot of financial barriers to care.
DESVARIEUX: Dr. Margaret Flowers is a part of the Physicians for a National Health Program, which advocates for a single-payer system. She adds that this deal is a reflection of business pressuring Congress. A bill which mirrors this agreement was proposed in the Senate last year by Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson. Supporters of the bill representing big industries like hotels and retailers sent Isakson a letter of support. The names of the companies and associations in favor of repealing this provision filled up almost four pages.
Dr. Flowers says that this deal will affect everyday people because they do not have the same leverage as employers in marketplaces, making coverage more expensive.
FLOWERS: And so it’s absolving the employers of responsibility and putting us as individuals into the marketplace where we don’t have leverage to negotiate for a good plan at a good cost. And so it just allows the insurance companies to continue to rip us off.
DESVARIEUX: Some see this compromise as necessary, since without a budget deal Medicare Part B premiums would spike for some seniors. But Flowers says these self-imposed deadlines and budget restrictions boil down to politicians’ priorities.
FLOWERS: What we’re seeing in the budget is a reflection of the priorities of our government. And we see that providing high-quality healthcare for everyone is not a priority. We never seem to run out of money for bailing out the banks when they have difficulty, or for spending on more wars, sending more troops to Afghanistan or bombing more places. That never seems to be a problem. It’s really up to us as people to not accept what the Congress is telling us. We have to accept that it’s really time for us to continue to make our voices heard and to say to them that we need to start putting the needs of the people first.
DESVARIEUX: It’s a topic that Congress won’t have much time to debate, since the budget deal could be up for a vote as early as Wednesday.
For the Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.