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Health Care

Impeding the development of life-saving products is what’s really “dangerous”

By | Health Care, Innovation, Presidents Blog, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

If you’re following debates in the Senate, you may have heard Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others refer to one important piece of pending legislation, the 21st Century Cures Act, as “corrupt” and “dangerous.”

Well she certainly got my attention. But what is really alarming is that Sen. Warren’s attack is baseless. In fact, the effort to derail the 21st Century Cures Act is what is really dangerous—and alarming.

Here’s why:

Manufacturers of medical devices and pharmaceuticals save lives and improve the human condition. Their breakthroughs in scientific advances and technological innovations create jobs for scientists and researchers as well as machinists and those on the manufacturing line.

Their work is essential to both the health of our families and our economy.

Unfortunately, due to an outdated federal device and drug approval process, manufacturers in the U.S. face burdensome costs and unnecessary delays in the development of innovative life-saving products.

The 21st Century Cures legislation works to address these challenges. It will modernize our approach to the discovery, development, and delivery of medical innovations in order to ensure that the United States maintains its rightful position of leadership in the global economy – at a time when foreign competitors are catching up.

This bill, which represents a bipartisan negotiation in the House and Senate, has been significantly debated over the past two years. The Act focuses on important investments in basic research that will lead to further advancement in the development of treatments and products, helps fight diseases and other chronic conditions, and allows for small business flexibility to provide health care options to employees.

In addition, the legislation also includes a fix to the Affordable Care Act that will allow small businesses to use Health Reimbursement Arrangements to provide health care options for their employees, a practice that is currently heavily fined by the Internal Revenue Service.

Attempts to call this effort “corrupt” and “dangerous” are baseless and more about making points based on political rhetoric, completely ignoring the positive and much needed provisions of the legislation.

Too much progress is at stake. Americans should hold Senator Warren accountable for attempting to hold up these much needed medical advances – all to score political points.

Discouraging Innovation at State or Federal Levels Is Not the Answer

By | Innovation, intellectual property, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

For manufacturers and all innovators in the United States, the protection of intellectual property (IP), including trade secrets, helps drive not only success but also a continuous cycle of innovation. As such, the United States has historically upheld a very strong record of protecting IP through both federal and state laws. After all, if the government can’t ensure sufficient protections, all incentive is lost in spending billions of dollars on research and development (R&D) only to have the resulting product stolen or devalued. Read More

Lose–Lose Proposal from UNHLP Panel Represents a Missed Opportunity and Poses a Real Threat

By | Health Care, Innovation, intellectual property, Shopfloor Policy, Trade | No Comments

A highly flawed report that employs the mantle of global health to take aim at innovation and manufacturing was released today by a U.N. panel, representing a real missed opportunity to focus the world on collaborative and effective solutions that could make a substantial difference for real people facing access barriers.  Read More

President’s Special JAMA Article Defends Continued Health Care Overreach

By | Health Care, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

The thesis is more of the same from President Obama and his administration: A public option and continued federal interference in health care markets will strengthen and improve the legacy of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The president’s recent submission to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is a personal policy defense of his hallmark health care initiative before the medical community. The president even took the opportunity to go beyond ACA and attacked pharmaceutical manufacturers to relinquish hard-earned intellectual property in the name of pricing transparency, a flawed policy approach that will fail to lower prescription drug prices and only stifle medical innovation and future discovery.

Unfortunately, many of the president’s arguments in the special JAMA article fail to recognize the negative impacts of the law on the already-insured and the employer community, which robustly provides health insurance for nearly half of the nation’s population.

Ninety-eight percent of manufacturers offer health insurance to employees and anxieties continue concerning the possible implementation of the employee benefits taxa 40 percent surcharge paid by employers on benefits that exceed a certain cost for a family or individual. Furthermore, manufacturers continue to report significant concerns with rising health care costs.

While Congress has granted a delay of the so-called “Cadillac” tax until 2020, the president defended the tax as an incentive to improve private-sector health plans. For employers, the continued uncertainty surrounding the ACA and new bureaucratic entanglements set in motion six years ago have created a headache that has yet to subside.

As the election approaches with a new president and new Congress set to take office in 2017, manufacturers will continue to fight senseless red tape that obstructs the ability to offer quality health care. A permanent repeal of the Cadillac tax and the punitive medical device tax are top priorities post-November, as both provisions of the ACA have come to represent balance transfers from productive profit centers to a Rube Goldberg machine that is our health care system. Manufacturers will continue to lead by providing health benefits to employees and will support efforts that make it easier, not harder, to provide these important benefits.

NAM Supports Health Care Flexibility for Small Manufacturers

By | Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy | No Comments

Today, the House is considering positive legislation allowing small employers the flexibility to offer pretax dollars to help pay premiums and/or other out-of-pocket costs associated with medical care and services. The Small Business Health Care Relief Act (H.R. 5447), sponsored by Reps. Charles Boustany (R-LA) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), allows employers with fewer than 50 employees to provide Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) to employees with health insurance.

Effective July 1, 2015, an IRS guidance placed a $100-per-day, per-employee penalty for employers that fail to offer a group health plan but provide tax-preferred dollars through an HRA for their workers to pay health insurance premiums or other direct medical expenses. The Small Business Health Care Relief Act allows small businessesthat are not required by the Affordable Care Act to provide health insuranceto provide some assistance to their employees and provide these HRAs. This simple, logical and bipartisan change will increase coverage, improve flexibility and promote wellness for manufacturers and other small employers.

The NAM recently signed onto a letter encouraging passage of this legislation in the House, and we urge action in the Senate.

NAM Takes on “Cadillac Tax” in The Washington Post

By | Health Care, Shopfloor Main, Shopfloor Policy, Taxation | No Comments

On Saturday, a letter to the editor from National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Vice President of Government Relations Joe Trauger ran in The Washington Post highlighting manufacturers’ concerns with the employee benefits tax, commonly called the “Cadillac tax.” This 40 percent tax on employee benefits is a major issue for manufacturers as rising health care costs remain a top concern.

“The recent ‘Cadillac tax’ editorial missed the mark regarding the so-called virtues of the Affordable Care Act’s tax on employee benefits. To suggest that doing away with on-site clinics, flexible spending accounts and other benefits is good policy and will reduce health-care spending is misguided. Manufacturers have identified health-care expenditures as one of their top business challenges. The ACA has done nothing to mitigate those concerns. Most manufacturers will tell you that coverage is more expensive as a result of the law.”

Last week, the NAM released a new study looking at this costly tax. NAM’s SVP of Communications Erin Streeter and SVP of Policy and Government Affairs Aric Newhouse discussed the impacts of the tax in our ShopTalk video series and the action congress is debating to provide relief. As soon as this week, Congress could once again be voting on a delay of this costly tax.

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ACA Repeal Vote Has Meaning

By | Health Care | One Comment

This week, the House of Representatives will once again vote on a bill that has little prospect of passage in the Senate and has zero chance of being signed by the President if it were to succeed. By some counts, this is the 37th time Congress will hold a vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). So if everyone agrees that it is likely to fail to become law, why should anyone care?

The NAM did not support the ACA when it was passed by Congress and signed by the President three years ago. Generally, implementation of the law over the past three years has been disappointing. As we reach the mid-point of 2013, the implementation process has become downright alarming, which is no doubt a factor behind the vote the House of Representatives will take on Thursday to repeal the ACA.

In less than five months, beginning on October 1, 2013, Americans are supposed to have access to health insurance through state exchanges that meet the criteria set out by the ACA. Some states are setting up their own exchanges and some are just letting the federal government do it, but that’s not really the issue that’s sounding alarms and feeding anxieties among consumers and businesses alike.

With less than five months before this program goes live, there is a lot we don’t know:

–          What products are available?
–          What are the prices for those products?
–          How do consumers get coverage?
–          How much will the federal subsidies cover?
–          How do we compare plans offered?
–          Who do I call with questions?
–          What is the impact on employer-sponsored coverage?

We don’t seem to be getting very many answers from the department in charge of putting this thing together- unless you consider planning a major public relations campaign an acceptable strategy for implementation. Most people don’t have confidence a public relations campaign will do the trick.

Ultimately, that’s the meaning of the vote being taken by the House of Representatives on Thursday – it is a vote of no-confidence. It is a firm and unambiguous statement of position on a major revision of federal law that will be confronting us not only in the months ahead, but also for many years to come. That is why the NAM supports a piece of legislation that has failed 37 times – and why everyone else should be paying close attention too.

Joe Trauger is vice president of human resources policy, National Association of Manufacturers.

 

Specialty Healthcare Micro-Unions a Reality

By | Health Care, Labor Unions | No Comments

On August 27th, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision in a case known as “Specialty Healthcare.” The specifics of the case relate to whether certain healthcare providers can exclude other similarly situated providers when forming a collective bargaining unit. The NAM has been concerned from the outset that the case would effectively eviscerate what has been known as the “community of interest doctrine.” So, why should employers care?

The reason the community of interest doctrine is important is without it, the NLRB is paving the way for what’s known as micro-unions. Micro-unions are unions with as few as two people forming a unit for collective bargaining. Imagine a restaurant where dishwashers, prep-cooks, fry-cooks, grill-cooks, wait staff, and bartenders all form their own collective bargaining units and are represented by different unions. Specialty Healthcare essentially allows such a hypothetical to materialize. How long would this restaurant be able to function and stay in business?

The public and business community were told the Specialty Healthcare decision wasn’t a big deal so we shouldn’t worry about it. Nothing to see here, they said.

On October 19th, the NLRB ruled on its first case invoking the new precedent created by the Specialty decision. The case, First Aviation Services, involves a company of 110 employees in which a group of 34 were allowed to form their own bargaining unit despite sharing a community of interest with all but two of the other workers in the same facility. The NLRB promptly denied the employer’s attempt to appeal the ruling of the regional director. The regional director used Specialty Healthcare as its rationale for granting the employee’s request to organize a unit of 34 employees and the full Board denied the employer’s request to review the regional director’s reasoning. While the decision is only two months old, it has already provided the road map for organizers to divide and conquer. The decision is clearly going to have far-reaching implications for decades unless it is over-turned.

Let People Use Their Flexible Spending Accounts for OTC Drugs

By | General, Health Care, Taxation | No Comments

The National Association of Manufacturers has signed on with a letter to Congress from members of Health Choices Coalition, urging legislators to overturn the ban on use of employees’ Flexible Spending Accounts for over-the-counter drugs. OTC drugs are effective and FSAs are effective, providing an important measure of consumer control over health-care spending, yet last year’s health care law limited the accounts.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association issued a release on the issue earlier this week. Excerpt:

“This issue is about empowering millions of American consumers to cost-effectively manage their families’ healthcare needs,” said CHPA Vice President of Government Affairs Bill Head. “The availability of OTC medicines through an employer-sponsored FSA provides valuable cost-savings to consumers, increases worker productivity, and encourages smart healthcare decisions by both employers and employees — all of which are consistent with the goals of healthcare reform.”

Prior to January, OTC medicines were eligible for reimbursement under FSAs and other tax-preferred savings accounts. An estimated 19 million working American families purchased these cost-effective medications through their FSAs. Read More