New COBRA Stimulus Provisions
Here is an issue for your radar screen. A provision in the stimulus bill allows for a 65% premium reduction on COBRA health insurance plans. It also expands the election opportunity for people who have been terminated since Sept 1, 2008.
Under the plan, COBRA eligible individuals would pay their employer 35% of their health insurance premium. Employers with more than 20 staff would then recoup the remaining 65% of the premium through a payroll tax credit. For employers with fewer than 20 staff, the remaining premium would be collected by the insurance provider.
This program could pose significant administrative headache and cash flow issues for businesses. Its an important alert for your members.
The Council of Smaller Enterprise (COSE) at the Greater Cleveland Partnership has compiled information on COBRA changes. Check out: COSE.org/COBRA. They have also put together this great on page fact sheet.
For moreinformation about COBRA changes under the stimulus and downloadable factsheets, follow this link to the Labor Department's webpage: www.dol.gov/ebsa/COBRA.html
Auto Supplier Rescue
This morning the administration announced a $5 billion program to support auto parts suppliers. According to Crain's Detroit Business news: "Treasury will guarantee supplier receivables, or payments owed to suppliers for parts already shipped to automakers, and allow suppliers to sell receivables to the government for immediate liquidity access."
According to the Detroit Free Press: "The Supplier Support Program will use a trickle-down method of funneling money through Detroit automakers to their direct suppliers, increasing the power of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler to decide which of their suppliers survive."
Automotive suppliers employeethousands of people in dozens of communities across the country.
For more details Download the 2009 Auto Supplier Support Program fact sheet.
State Health Care Mandates
With state legislatures in session, additional mandated health insurance benefits are sure to come up, but chambers are working hard to fight escalating health insurance cost.
Additional mandated benefits revise the state insurance code to raise the minimum standard of benefits and coverage level that medical insurance must include. When they legislate coverage for acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, or plastic surgery, additional mandated benefits can seem frivolous and driven by narrow interest groups. When they mandate coverage for children's hearing aides or colon cancer screenings, they can seem vitally important and politically difficult to oppose.
Regardless of what ailment or treatments they seek to cover, mandated benefits drive up the cost of insurance, penalizing companies that cover their employees in the process.
Here is a glimpse at some of the proposed additional coverage mandates floating around state houses this year:
- Des Moines Register - Mental health parity bill stalled in Iowa legislature
- The Salt Lake Tribune - Legislators shunned proposed health coverage mandates
- Louisville Courier-Journal - Autism care bill goes to full Senate vote
Were additional coverage mandates introduced in your state legislature this year? Did they pass? Leave a comment and let us know.
For more information on coverage mandates check out the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI). CAHI is a non-profit organization that tracks state health insurance mandates and estimates the cost impact of those mandates.
White House Announces Small Biz Plan
Yesterday the White House released details of their plan to help American small businesses. At its core, the plan is designed getting credit flowing by reducing the risks for local banks to make loans.
Under Obama's plan, the Treasury will buy up $15 billion in private sector securities backed by Small Business Administration loans. The plan would also guarantee SBA program 7(a) loans up to 90%.
Americans Want a Secret Ballot
According to a Rasmussen Report issued today, national polling data shows that 61% of Americans believe it is "fair to require a vote by secret ballot if workers want to form a union." 52% of Americans feel it is unfair to form a union by card authorization without a secret ballot. The poll also asked questions about giving the government power to settle contract negotiations through mandatory arbitration and the perceived difficulty for workers to unionize.
This is great data from a reliable, respected national polling organization that bolsters the case for preserving a secret ballots for union elections. As you communicate with members, and more importantly with elected officials, this is polling data you can cite.
Capitalism, American Values, and the Downturn
Here's an interesting thought piece for your Friday morning. George Taber, former business editor of Time magazine and author of the landmark 1980 Time cover story "Is Capitalism Working?," has revisited the original question in an article for U. Penn's Wharton Business School. Taber's article traces an interesting path through the roots of American capitalism an ultimately concludes:
"The American brand of capitalism rests on creative destruction, innovation and, ultimately, entrepreneurs. It is impossible to rebuild the superstructure of U.S. prosperity by destroying its foundation.
Click to read A Question Revisited: Is Capitalism Working?
If this kind of philosophical article gets your blood pumping, check out the collection of in-depth articles from the Financial Times: The Future of Capitalism
Wavering Support for Card Check?
Are some Senate Democrats wavering on Card Check? With EFCA's formal announcement this week speculation over potential vote counts is flying. Here are a few articles about who might be leaning toward opposition.
From the Wall Street Journal: Labor Bill Faces Threat in Senate
From Politico.com: Business, unions swarm Hill
From CBS News.com: Centrist Dems Dodge Labor Bill
Meanwhile, editorials deriding Card Check abound. Here are a couple from today:
Local Chambers Rally Against Card Check
The Employee Free Choice Act was formally introduced in both houses of Congress this week. Local chambers of commerce are greeting the announcement by voicing their opposition and rallying local businesses.
Tom Donely, President of the York County (PA) Chamber of Commerce, was in Washington speaking with elected officials about Card Check the day the bill was introduced. The York Daily Record quoted Donely as saying, "The act, if passed, would end secret ballot rules for union formation, allowing retaliation because those supporting unionization would know who didn't support it."
Just last week staff and members of the Las Vegas (NV) Chamber carried their concerns about Card Check to the Capitol Building. Following meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), the Las Vegas Sun featured this comment on EFCA from Steve Hill, Chairman of the Las Vegas Chamber, "(it) takes the voice away from the employees, it takes the ability for businesses and their employees to have a dialogue. ...It discourages people from jumping out there and trying to create new jobs."
The Dallas Regional Chamber publicly proclaimed their opposition to the the Employee Free Choice Act in a letter sent to Texas' representatives. Their message was picked up by Reuters and the Dallas Business Journal among others. Here is what Dallas Chamber President Jim Oberwetter had to say: "The Dallas Regional Chamber rarely weighs in on issues such as Card Check, but we strongly believe that this issue is critical to the success of our ability to keep and attract businesses and jobs to the region. ...We are taking a committed stand against Card Check and will do all that we can to urge Congress to defeat it."
Across the country chambers are taking a stand on Card Check and grabbing headlines for their position. Don't miss this opportunity to demonstrate your organization's leadership on vital business issues, make sure your chamber's voice is heard.
Buffett Also Opposes Card Check
Know who else opposes Card Check? Warren Buffett.
The esteemed Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and vocal Obama supporter was succinct and blunt about his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act on CNBC yesterday. Buffett said:
"I think the secret ballot's pretty important in the country. I'm against card check to make a perfectly flat statement."
Click HERE to see the CNBC interview.
McGovern Opposes Card Check
Former Senator and Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern is featured in a new series of television ads opposing the Employee Free Choice Act. The spots are sponsored by the Employee Freedom Action Committee and send a strong message about the reality of this proposed bill.
In the ads, McGovern says: "I've always been a champion of labor unions, but I fear that today's union leaders are turning their backs on democratic work place elections." He goes on to add: "Quite simply, this proposed law cannot be justified."
To view the ad, check out this MSNBC article: MCGOVERN VS. UNIONS