The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reaffirmed its stance against mandatory employer-sponsored healthcare last week in the wake of a poll showing negligible support for such a mandate among its members.
Nearly 40,000 of the Chamber's 220,000 members responded to a healthcare reform poll, and 56% of them said they preferred enhancing the current system rather than using more radical options for change. Only 6.6% said they favored an employer mandate. Some 11.3% said they favored requiring individuals to buy their own coverage, and 4.3% preferred a government-run system.
Before the board had even voted on the policy, however, Robert Patricelli, chairman of the Chamber's health and employee benefits committee, offered his resignation. In an April 21 letter to the board of directors, Mr. Patricelli said he supported the Chamber's position on employer mandates, which is consistent with members' views. But he said he didn't support a recommendation made to the board by chamber officials that it reject expanded subsidies for low-income individuals.
"Virtually every major congressional bill-Republican or Democrat-includes such a provision," he said.
The Chamber's poll found that 45.2% of members supported expanding low-income coverage while 43.6% did not. While the board rejected employer mandates, it deferred action on the low-income coverage question and others, including a mandate for employers to offer but not pay for workers' health insurance, based on the slim margin of approval.
"Without these two positions, the Chamber will have virtually no proposal that deals with the problem of lack of insurance for 38 million Americans," Mr. Patricelli said. Arguing that the lack of political leverage would raise the chance that a Clinton-type plan would prevail, he warned, "You can't fight something with nothing."