Contract Glazing Industry Representatives Voice Opinion on Health Care Legislation
January 14, 2010

A provision in the U.S. Senate's health care bill (known as the Merkley Bill for Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore, who introduced it) has been a concerning matter for many companies in the construction industry, including glass shops and contract glazing firms. The bill has generally required that businesses with at least 50 workers provide insurance or pay a tax of $750 per worker. However, the amendment would lower the threshold for construction firms to those with at least five employees and $250,000 in payroll. In other words, all other small businesses-with the exception of the construction industry-would be exempt from providing mandatory health coverage if they employ 50 workers or less (CLICK HERE for related article).

While the legislation passed the Senate Christmas Eve by a vote of 60 to 39 and has gone on to conference with the House, it is still a topic of concern for some in the construction industry. In fact, a recent article in the Idaho Business Review said "contractors are flabbergasted over a provision in the U.S. Senate's version of the health care bill that singles out the construction industry for a special rule." It goes on to say that supporters of the bill "maintain that the true mom-and-pop construction companies have fewer than five employees," so would not be affected (CLICK HERE to read the entire article).

But what do those in the contract glazing industry specifically think of the legislation? Stuart Binstock, chief executive officer of the Finishing Contractors Association (FCA), shared his thoughts with USGNN.com™.

"FCA contractors, including our own glazing contractors, comprise a substantial number of construction industry employers that do the right thing-provide health care to their employees. Construction companies, the majority of which employ fewer than 20 employees that have been providing coverage, will be under significant pressure to dump coverage, disrupting the care their employees receive, and placing a greater financial burden on the government as a result," says Binstock. "Furthermore, the problem of uninsured workers is the biggest driving force in the health care bill and therefore, it does not make sense to exclude construction from the bill. Construction is one of America's most dangerous industries, so it only makes sense that its workers receive coverage. The Merkley bill would ensure that more construction workers receive coverage, thus reducing the current high rate of uninsurance in an industry that should be increasing, rather than decreasing health insurance coverage."

Ed Zaucha, chief executive officer of contract glazing firm APG - International, also shared his thoughts on the subject.

“APG - International (like the majority of union construction companies) provides full healthcare coverage for its employees. We strongly believe that is the responsible thing to do. No employer, regardless of how small, should be exempt. As an employer, accepting a $750 fine would be a fraction of what we pay for our employee healthcare coverage,” says Zaucha. “The problem of the uninsured in the United States is pervasive and must be dealt with. We should not have a health care bill with thousands of exceptions. I strongly believe that health care in the United States must be approached similarly to public education and that is that each community has an obligation to make sure that every citizen is covered by a basic healthcare coverage. Like public education, there are individuals who would like something better and, accordingly, they should be permitted to purchase better coverage (just like private education options).”

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