On December 24, 2009, the United States Senate voted to pass its own version of the health care package.  You have probably heard cries about the length of the bill (1,990 pages).  You have probably heard the cries about the costs.  But have you heard about an amendment that may significantly affect the construction industry?

Read Between the Lines

According to a letter from the Associated General Contractors of America to Senator Mitch McConnell (pdf), the bill is non-workable and unnecessarily targets the construction industry.  The AGC opposes the health care package because of the complexity of the plan, the cost-shifting (rather than the cost- reductions), and the likelihood that it will increase insurance costs for those construction businesses that provide insurance to their employees.

Even worse, according to the AGC, is an amendment drafted by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Or) and inserted into the bill by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that would exempt the construction industry from the small business exemption that was included in the original bill.  According to another letter from the AGC to Senator McConnell (pdf), this would cripple small construction businesses:

For all other industries, H.R. 3590, exempts employers with fewer than 50 employees from the fines levied on those who cannot afford to provide their employees with the federal minimum standard of health insurance. However, the Manager’s Amendment alters the exemption so that it singles out small businesses in construction for special punishment by applying the exemption to only those firms with fewer than five employees in the construction industry. . . . The 50 employee threshold was meant to exempt smaller firms, [and] this amendment will unfairly punish small construction contractors.

There remains considerable debate about the effectiveness of the health care package.  The introduction and consideration of the Merkley amendment is a reminder for all industries to do your homework as Congress enacts laws that may affect, both directly and indirectly, your company.

Photo: Flickr | pixelle54