Senate Health Care Bill Could be Burdensome to Small Construction Firms

November 30, 2009

A recent amendment to the healthcare reform bill by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., could have a major impact on small glass and glazing industry companies. While the bill has generally required that businesses with at least 50 workers provide insurance or pay a tax of $750 per worker, the amendment would lower the threshold for construction firms to those with at least five employees and $250,000 in payroll. 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.

Rich Walker, president and chief executive officer of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), tells USGNN.com™ the health care bills passed by the House and Senate will be severely detrimental to the industry and will prolong the recession.

“While the original intent of the legislation was laudable, the 2,000-plus pages are now fraught with provisions that will burden AAMA members and their customers with additional costs during this fragile recovery period. Our organization, on behalf of the fenestration industry, implores Congress to remove this provision that is entirely inconsistent with the requirements for other types of small businesses," says Walker.

"This narrow provision is an unprecedented assault on the construction industry and unjustly targets an industry trying to keep its doors open during the worst housing downturn since the Great Depression," says Joe Robson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders and a home builder from Tulsa, Okla. "If this provision were to be enacted into law, it would prove to be catastrophic for the home building industry. In short, this is a true jobs killer. Thousands of small firms struggling to stay afloat could go under. We strongly urge the Senate to reconsider and pull this onerous provision that threatens the viability of small home builders across the nation."
Stephen Sandherr, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of Amierca, has a similar perspective.

“Unconcerned that construction has endured more pain than any other sector, supporters of the Senate health care bill appear poised to exclude the industry from thoughtful measures designed to protect small businesses. With construction unemployment already at 19.4 percent, nearly twice the national average and higher than any other category, the Senate’s decision couldn’t come at a worse time for contractors,” says Sandherr. “It is impossible to understand the wisdom of singling out small, mostly family-owned construction firms even though the vast majority of them already provide comprehensive health insurance. If Washington was looking for a way to push more construction workers into unemployment lines, the late-night amendment to the health care ‘reform’ measure does just that.”

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