The business lobby takes on healthcare reform

January 13, 2011

What business, big or small, doesn’t like a government bailout? That’s what the Obama healthcare bill is, in oversimplified terms, from the point of view of employers: up until now they’ve been struggling with soaring healthcare costs, and now the government is stepping in to relieve some of that burden.

David Wessel finds it necessary today to explain this at some length, thanks to the fact that the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business both want to repeal the bill.

At the National Business Group on Health, a collection of nearly 300 big employers, President Helen Darling, a former corporate-benefit administrator and Republican Senate staffer, says about executives who call for repeal: “If they really understood it, they wouldn’t.”

Wessel explains that the bill will help minimize the implicit subsidies that insured employees pay to the uninsured; will make it much easier for small businesses to shop for healthcare; will end Cobra obligations; and might even slow the pace of healthcare cost inflation.

What he doesn’t explain is how the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business became party-political hack machines, lobbying for whatever’s good for Republicans politically rather than whatever’s good for businesses on a policy basis. Is this something new, something related to the increasingly-partisan nature of Washington? Or were they ever thus?

It makes sense that there should be organizations which aggregate and represent the view of businesses in the economy — but maybe such organizations simply can’t be based in Washington and also be intellectually honest. After all, when politics and economics meet, politics always wins.


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