By STEVE ROBERTS
CHARLESTON -- The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce would like to thank Rep. Shelley Moore Capito for voting against House Bill 3962, the health insurance "reform" bill that narrowly passed the House of Representatives.
The bill, which passed by a razor-thin vote of 220-215, would have serious consequences for small businesses -- increasing taxes and imposing mandates without addressing fundamental problems with affordability and access.
Democratic members of Congress from every state that borders West Virginia voted "no" on this bill. Congresswoman Capito deserves our thanks for working for a better, more sustainable health care bill.
Capito was joined by 39 Democrats in voting "no," including Democratic members of Congress from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky.
The Wall Street Journal recently described HR 3962 as ranking, "among the worst bills Congress has ever seriously contemplated."
Many Democrats agree. Among these are:
* Said Congressman Dan Boren, D-Okla.: "The worst thing we could do in a recession is raise taxes, and this bill does just that."
Boren also said he is afraid HR 3962 would lead to a single-payer, government-run health care system.
* Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., said: "I'm not persuaded any sort of tax increase is needed."
* Congressman Ben Chandler, D-Ky., issued a statement saying he would: "continue to have reservations about any bill that does not lower costs, protect small businesses, safeguard our rural hospitals and maintain quality of care. . . . . ."
The West Virginia Chamber supports meaningful, workable health care reform measures, and has spoken for reforms over the last three years.
But the House bill would impose higher costs on West Virginia with a partially unfunded mandate to expand Medicaid. The bill imposes new taxes, creates a new health choices czar, and places additional mandates on employers.
The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce is the state's largest association of employers. Chamber members employ more than half of West Virginia's private-sector workforce.
Ninety percent of the employers are small businesses.
Among those who will be hit hardest by the provisions in HR 3962 are small business owners and their employees, who may see different mandates if this bill is enacted in law.
I encourage our U.S. senators to carefully consider these employers and employees as they take up health care reform.
The better course of action to take is to enact medical malpractice reforms, allow expanded abilities for employers to join multi-state group health care plans, provide tax credits to help more businesses afford coverage, and create a real mechanism for expansion of health information technology.
Other changes that will help the current situation include increasing opportunities for training and educating health care professionals, including nurses, physician assistants, medical doctors and allied service providers.
Having more people covered by insurance, and meeting the needs of our aging population means that we will need more primary care doctors and health care workers to meet the demands on our health care system.
Finally, Congress needs to include incentives that will help encourage people to manage their own health and to stay well.
Congresswoman Capito got it right.
Thank you, Shelley.
Roberts is president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.