Roe: Obamacare uncertainty drag on economy

Hank Hayes • Aug 20, 2013 at 8:32 PM

KINGSPORT — Uncertainty over the impact of Obamacare, also known as the Affordable Care Act, is holding America’s economy back, U.S. Rep. Phil Roe told about 70 business leaders at a Kingsport Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday.

Key aspects of the health care reform law, namely the health insurance exchanges and individual requirement for people to be covered by health insurance, take effect in 2014.

But President Obama has delayed the part of the law mandating large employers to offer their employees health insurance next year or face monetary penalties.

“I think (all of the law) needs to be delayed for a year at least so we can get our arms around it,” Roe, R-Tenn., said at the luncheon. “I can’t even tell my own staff what their premiums are going to be, that’s how bad it is. I have no idea what the costs are going to be. And every business needs to know what their costs are.”

Later, during a meeting with members of the Times-News Editorial Board, Roe disclosed a Republican Study Committee draft overview of a replacement bill for Obamacare.

The draft bill again calls for Obamacare repeal, but would also convert the existing uncapped tax benefit for employer-sponsored health insurance into an above-the-line universal standard deduction for health insurance applying to both income and payroll taxes.

“This equalizes the tax benefit between those who purchase health insurance themselves and those who receive it through their employer,” according to the draft overview.

The GOP bill, according to the draft, would also expand access to health savings accounts and allow people to buy insurance across state lines.

But while Republicans control the House, Roe noted Democrats still rule the Senate.

“This job might actually end up being fun if we control the House and Senate,” Roe observed.

Still, Roe pointed out the sequester has pushed federal spending back to 2008 levels, including spending in his congressional office by up to 20 percent.

“We’re delivering the services and doing what we have to do with less. A lot of the country has had to do that,” Roe stressed.

Roe said if he was president, he would issue a challenge to make the nation energy independent in 10 years or less, much like the challenge President Kennedy issued in the 1960s to put men on the moon.

Energy independence, Roe insisted, would resurrect the nation’s manufacturers.

“(Environmental Protection Agency) mandates have hit the coal industry through rule making for standards for (carbon) emissions that do not exist in the world. ... You cannot build a coal-fired power plant even though they are more efficient today,” Roe said. “We have the largest carbon reserves in the world. We’ve got to stop picking winners and losers. We’ve got to let the marketplace work, and it will work.”

Roe has received the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’ “Spirit of Enterprise” award, given annually to members of Congress based on key floor votes for business.

Senators and House members who support the chamber’s position on at least 70 percent of these key votes receive the award. All GOP members in Tennessee’s congressional delegation have been named as award winners.

Those votes included action on bills to repeal excise taxes on medical device manufacturers and block workplace regulations.

Moore Hallmark, Southeast regional director of the U.S. Chamber, said the organization will press Congress to reform Social Security and other federal entitlements.

“We need to fix these programs or they will consume every dollar. ... None will be financially solvent in the next 20 years,” Hallmark told the luncheon.

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