The National Retail Federation has urged Congressional committees working on healthcare reform to reject any form of employer mandate. It calls such a provision a, "tax on jobs," that the nation cannot afford. "NRF cannot support an employer mandate of any type, whether pay or play, set penalty, or 'free rider' in nature," said Steve Pfister, NRF's SVP for government relations. "We are a labor heavy industry that operates on a thin profit margin."
"We cannot afford any new labor costs, particularly the eight percent of payroll penalty, or the 72.5 percent contribution floor for individual coverage, or the 65 percent contribution floor for family coverage, that have been proposed. Employer mandates of any kind amount to a tax on jobs," Pfister said. "We can think of few more dangerous steps to take in the middle of our present recession. We need to add new jobs, not exacerbate the near double digit unemployment numbers. We cannot afford to have new and existing jobs priced out of our collective reach because of mandated health coverage," he added.
Pfister also said NRF opposes a number of other provisions being considered. They include a publicly sponsored insurance plan that would compete with private insurance plans and lead to cost shifting, similar to that already seen with Medicare and Medicaid. NRF also opposes a limited five year grandfathering of existing group health plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, because of its potential to greatly increase employer coverage costs at the end of the five year period.
In addition, NRF strongly opposes proposals to pay for the expected $1 trillion plus cost of health reform through a value added tax that would drive up prices for consumers, a surtax on upper income individuals that would affect small retailers, whose business income is taxed as personal income, and a tax on alcohol and soft drinks that would drive up prices while offering dubious value for health promotion.
Pfister said a VAT would be devastating in the current economy. Consumer spending represents more than two thirds of gross domestic product, but has plummeted dramatically over the past two years. Placing an additional tax on consumer spending would further depress spending, and lengthen and deepen the current recession, he said. Pfister noted that a VAT is a highly regressive tax that would hit low income families hardest. He charged that it would also crowd out cash strapped states' ability to increase sales tax, at a time when they are desperately in need of revenue.
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