Healthcare reform materializes in Congress

    That movement is being scrutinized by a wide range of interest groups wondering how they will be affected.

    Through the haze of months of promises and speculation, healthcare reform legislation finally came to light this week. The long-anticipated bill has business owners, employees and just about everybody else grappling with how they might be affected.

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    The main thrust of the House Democrats’ bill is that Americans will be required to have health insurance. What’s paying for it: taxes, savings in government-run insurance programs, and penalties to business that don’t offer insurance. Gene Barr is a lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Business and Industry Association. He says the bill could be devastating to small businesses in the state.

    Barr: The proposed tax on employers is something we went through in Pennsylvania here a couple years ago. I will tell you from talking to our members, I assume their answer is going to be the same to the federal legislation as it was to the state legislation, that is, they simply can’t afford a new tax to provide this healthcare.

    Employees, however, are rejoicing over the bill. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees says it finds no drawbacks to the House bill. Charles Loveless is the legislative director there.

    Loveless: We think it’s going to control the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. It’s going to root out waste fraud in the healthcare system and it’s going to promote quality and accountability. And I think it’s going to offer families and businesses more choices and make healthcare more affordable.

    Hospitals are somewhere in the middle. Michael Strazzella is a lobbyist for the Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania.

    Strazzella: We’re still analyzing a lot of this. But we do know there will be a lot of changes in the Medicare payments to hospitals. But we do recognize the importance of … reducing the uninsured population.

    President Obama has urged members of Congress to vote on the bill in the next month.

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