Small business group backs Clinton health plan

May 04, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- A new coalition of small businesses, claiming membership of 340,000 employers, announced support for President Clinton's health reform plan yesterday, stressing that private entrepreneurs are not united in opposition to a requirement that all businesses provide insurance to workers.

The coalition's support exposes the first major split in small business opposition to the reform package and suggests that employers are responding to efforts in Congress to make the president's plan less onerous to small companies.

"A very sizable segment of the small business community has seen the light," said Rep. John J. LaFalce, a New York Democrat who chairs the House Small Business Committee.

"The coalition came together not because we are 100 percent behind every clause of President Clinton's proposal but because we recognize that the train is leaving the station," Robert Peck, a coalition spokesman, said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

The small business community is divided, as is big business. But thehighly organized National Federation of Independent Business has effectively dominated the debate with its high-decibel opposition to the employer mandate.

"We are here today to state clearly and strongly that the impression created by the NFIB is wrong," Mr. Peck said.

The coalition represents more than 3.2 million workers and includes organizations such as the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Farmers' Union and the National Council of Non-Profit Associations, according to Mr. Peck.

The NFIB's 600,000 members employ between 7 million and 9 million workers. It said the coalition's members are misinformed. "Once they look at the details and see what it's going to cost them, we believe they will not support it," said Terry Hill, a NFIB spokesman.

Mr. Clinton would require companies to pay at least 80 percent of the insurance premiums for full-time workers, with the employee paying the rest. But no company would have to pay more than 7.9 percent of its payroll, while some small businesses would pay as little as 3.5 percent of payroll.

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