WASHINGTON — In a letter to leaders of the House of Representatives, the American Bakers Association has voiced strong opposition to H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care Act.
The Nov. 3 letter from Robb MacKie, A.B.A. president and chief executive officer, said while the legislation comes amid "universal calls" to curb health care costs, the House bill would have the opposite effect by raising taxes on the baking industry and weakening "the few existing" cost containment tools currently available.
"This legislation completely misses the mark and could make the U.S. health care system far worse," Mr. MacKie said.
The letter, directed to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader John Boehner, itemizes several aspects of the bill opposed by the industry, beginning with the creation of a Medicare-like government run health care plan. In particular, Mr. MacKie expressed concern about costs that would shift to bakers to make up for budget shortfalls caused by the plan.
"The new $461 billion surtax would raise the tax rate for many bakers, further eliminating needed capital for employees and production," he said.
The A.B.A. also expressed concern the House bill would undermine the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), noting that bakers have relied for years on "safeguards within ERISA to offer competitive benefits across state lines."
He said the House bill would "expose bakers to myriad different state health insurance coverage laws," imposing higher administrative costs on the industry.
"The ERISA preemption is critical to ensuring a stable framework for bakers to continue offering health insurance benefits to employees," Mr. MacKie said.
The A.B.A. also voiced opposition to what it called a "one-size-fits-all" benefits package mandated in the legislation.
"Bakers would be forced to either provide a government mandated level of health care coverage or face a penalty of 8% of payroll," Mr. MacKie said. "This would dramatically raise the cost of benefits, possibly resulting in job loss or lower wages. This bill would also force the baking industry to curtail alternative but extremely successful benefit programs such as health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts that directly benefit employees."
Urging Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Boehner to "scrap this ill-conceived and potentially devastating bill," the A.B.A. suggested "positive reforms" instead, with steps that allow more families to be covered through insurance pools for businesses; reforming tort law and increase the use of successful cost containment programs such as Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts.
The baking industry believes the current bill will further harm an already weak economy, Mr. MacKie said.
"This bill will only escalate health care costs for Americans while jeopardizing the high quality of care available in the United States," he said. "It is critical that Congress address health care reform in a rational and responsible manner."