Randy Hunt on his vote for price controls in health care market: Pragmatism over Principle

State Representative Randy Hunt (R-Cape Cod) provided his constituents his reasons for voting for the government to control prices in the health care market.  He explains his vote as one of pragmatism over principle.

Health care payment reform bill includes important accommodations for small businesses

As I am apt to do when the Massachusetts House of Representatives votes on a controversial bill (see my commentary on the casino bill as an example: http://randyhuntcpa.blogspot.c… I like to provide insight into my reasons for my yea or nay vote.

Yesterday, the House passed H.4127, “An Act improving the quality of health care and reducing costs through increased transparency, efficiency and innovation” (that’s a mouthful) on a 148 to 7 vote. The seven nay votes were from freshmen Republicans who are opposed to any expansion of government bureaucracy and skeptical of the claims of cost containment by the bill proponents.

I share these concerns. It gives me heartburn imagining what the proposed Division of Health Care Cost and Equality is going to look like in ten years. Regarding cost containment, even the crafters of this bill predict only the softening of the steep incline that health care costs have been on for the past decade (or more).

Here’s the reality for anyone who is a state representative in Massachusetts, irrespective of party. We all knew that H.4127 and a number of the 275 amendments were going to pass yesterday. The Speaker of the House does not bring a major bill to the floor that might not pass.

For the Democrats, a vote against the bill would be political suicide, so no one expected any majority party members to fall out of line.

For the Republicans, we had a choice, the same choice we are faced with everyday on Beacon Hill as the party outnumbered 127 to 33: Go hard line, making this vote a stand for conservative principles, or work with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to improve a bill that makes sweeping changes to our health care economy.

I chose the latter. As a pragmatic person, knowing that the bill was going to pass come hell or high water, I worked with a number of representatives to make important changes that will benefit small businesses across the commonwealth. Those people are Representatives Walsh (D) of Lynn, Forry (D) of Boston, Jones (R) of North Reading, Peterson (R) of Grafton, Kafka (D) of Stoughton, Keenan (D) of Salem, Peake (D) of Provincetown, Toomey (D) of Cambridge, Hogan (D) of Stow, Atkins (D) of Concord, Benson (D) of Lunenburg, McMurtry (D) of Dedham, DiNatale (D) of Fitchburg, Calter (D) of Kingston, Fox (D) of Boston, Coppinger (D) of Boston, Dykema (D) of Holliston, O’Connell (R) of Taunton, D’Emilia (R) of Bridgewater, Levy (R) of Marlborough, and Turner (D) of Dennis.

The amendment we crafted, which passed unanimously, does three important things for small businesses relative to the Fair Share Contribution (FSC) calculation. (If you don’t know what this is, there is information at http://www.mass.gov/lwd/unempl… In a nutshell, companies with more than ten full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees must have at least 25% of their employees participating in their health insurance plan or show that their employees have turned down the offer of employer-provided health insurance subsidized by the company at a minimum of 33%.)

1)     Employees who have qualified health insurance coverage through a spouse, parent, veteran’s plan, Medicare, Medicaid or a plan or plans due to a disability or retirement shall not be included in the numerator or denominator for purposes of determining whether an employer is a contributing employer.

2)     The definition of a seasonal employee is changed to include seasonal employees of businesses that do not close down for a period of time each year. These seasonal employees are also excluded from the Fair Share Contribution calculation.

3)     The Fair Share Contribution threshold is increased from 10 FTE employees to 20 FTE employees.

These three changes will provide huge relief for businesses that have been hammered by the FSC auditors and pay an inordinate amount of the fines assessed. The problem has always been that the 10-employee threshold was unrealistic. My amendment called for a 50-employee threshold, which coincides with the national Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), but every step forward in politics is a compromise.

We also fought valiantly for a more affordable “mandate lite” health insurance plan that could be offered for 25% less than the “Cadillac” plans that currently mandated, but lost the vote along party lines.

The next step is to fight to ensure that the small business amendment stays in the language of the compromise bill to be released by the conference committee after they meet to reconcile the senate and house versions of the act.

I made a pledge to fight for our small businesses when I campaigned for the state rep seat in 2010 and I am following through on that promise.

About Rob "EaBo Clipper" Eno