Of Henry Waxman, And Show Trials That Didn't Happen

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on May 1, 2010


Memories are still fresh concerning Henry Waxman’s relatively recent announcement that he would hold hearings concerning the behavior of various corporations which disclosed to investors the degree to which they would suffer a tax hit as a consequence of passage of health care reform legislation. Waxman believed that the corporations in question were using their disclosures to attack health care reform, and he wanted to call them on the carpet for their alleged behavior. (Never mind that the corporations in question were only doing what they were required to do by law, as friend and colleague Ben Domenech has pointed out.)

But almost immediately after threatening to hold the hearings, Waxman canceled them. He claimed that the reason for the cancellation was that he had learned that the corporations’ disclosures were properly filed. But in fact, there is a lot more to the story:

. . . a new report from committee Republicans reveals the documents Waxman obtained included embarrassing evidence that the health-care law could drive up insurance premiums and force employers to dump employees from their health plans.

“Turns out Obamacare means if you like your health plan you can lose it. The president didn’t have to actually strong-arm companies into dumping their employee health insurance because his bill carried financial incentives to virtually guarantee that result,” Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Rep. Joe Barton, Texas Republican, said.

Most significantly, documents unearthed by the investigation highlight companies that are considering dumping employees from their current health-care plans in the face of new costs from the health-care law. President Obama repeatedly promised his health-care law would let Americans keep their current insurance if they’re happy with it.

A March 3 internal Verizon memo on the impact health-care law said new taxes on insurance companies and health-care equipment manufacturers will be passed onto employers through higher prices.

Facing such increased costs, employers like Verizon “may consider exiting the health-care market and send employees to the exchanges,” the memo says.

Under the law, companies would pay fines for not providing insurance companies coverage. But, the Verizon memo said, the fines would be “modest” compared to providing coverage for employees.

In a March 25 e-mail, John Deere’s director of labor relations, Kenneth Hugh, said, “We ought to look at … denying coverage and just paying the penalty … we would need to figure out which one was more expensive.” John Deere faces a unique situation because of contracts with its unionized workers.

Whether or not companies are being forced to rescind employee coverage, they may need to raise insurance premiums, the documents show.

The top human resources official at Caterpillar said in a March 23 e-mail that the company will need to “figure out what this will cost us and collect that in increased premiums which we will attribute to the legislation.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I happen to think that the mainstream media ought to actually, you know, cover this story. Unfortunately, one has yet to hear a peep from the likes of MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

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