Inside the Beltway: Health Care Reform During the August Recess: It’s Enough to Make You Sick
Seven months into the Obama Administration, the president is quite obviously committed to enacting his number one priority – some level of overhaul of the U.S. health insurance and health care systems so that every American can be assured of adequate health care and so that the costs of receiving health care remains within reach of all Americans.
What Do ARVC Members Support
and What Do They Oppose?
Earlier this summer, the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC) conducted a survey of national and state industry leadership to try to measure sentiment among park owners for some of the major provisions of pending healthcare legislation. Some 29 ARVC members responded to the survey distributed by ARVC President Linda Profaizer. Can’t say that there are any surprises in the results, as they would likely mirror the anti-tax and anti-mandate sentiments of most small business people.
The purpose of the survey was to see how ARVC members view the various reform proposals and to help the ARVC Public Affairs Committee determine if ARVC should be actively engaged in the health reform debate in Washington or should let the major small business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business act and speak on behalf of the associations’ members.
Here’s a brief rundown on the input provided by the survey respondents.
- Almost unanimously, the respondents opposed any government mandate to force business to either provide coverage at some level or pay a monthly fee into a federal fund.
- Two-thirds of the respondents opposed a government sponsored program or company to compete with private insurers.
- There was very strong sentiment opposing proposals for every employer to pay a tax (fee) based on payroll size and for everyone to be insured through a federal government program.
- Only one respondent supported taxing employer-provided health benefits and using the tax income to provide insurance coverage for everyone.
- The only question that garnered a favorable response was whether the respondent favored or opposed a government mandate that required insurers to cover all pre-existing conditions. Sixty percent favored a government mandate to require insurers to cover all pre-existing conditions.
- Approximately 75% of all respondents oppose any increase in federal income taxes or the imposition of a tax on the highest earning Americans with the increased tax revenue used to cover non-insured people.
It’s clear, in a nutshell, that campground owners as represented by this group are skeptical of government as a provider of health insurance or government’s role at all in health reform. This skepticism is no different than that felt by most smaller business people when it comes to government.
What’s the Current Status
on this Controversial Topic?
As Congress took its August recess, the president and his administration were 100% firmly committed to reforming how healthcare is delivered to Americans and to assuring that all Americans have access to quality health care as a right.
As the House went into the summer recess, the three principal House committees with jurisdiction over health care reform hadn’t finished their work. The Energy and Commerce Committee version contained many more pages than the Ways and Means and Education and Labor Committees’ versions. So, over the August recess, the House Rules Committee was going to attempt to perform a feat of magic and somehow decide what should be in the final version that is brought to the floor. Analysts (like Aubrey King and myself) see that holding the conservative Blue Dog Democrats and the liberal Democrats on the same bill is going to be quite a trick. It is highly unlikely that any Republicans will vote in favor of the final bill, so the Democratic leadership needs most of its party’s members singing from the same choir book.
Among the significant revisions was an adjustment to the employer mandate. In the original version, employers with less than $250,000 in payroll were completely exempt and employers with payrolls over $400,000 would pay an 8% tax if they did not provide coverage to employees and their dependents.
The amendment to the House Energy and Commerce Committee altered the exemption/payroll table as follows:
- If the annual payroll of an employer for the preceding calendar year does not exceed $500,000, the applicable percentage is 0%.
- If payroll exceeds $500,000, but does not exceed $585,000, the tax is 2.5%.
- If payroll exceeds $585,000, but does not exceed $670,000, the tax is 4%.
- If payroll exceeds $670,000, but does not exceed $750,000, the tax is 6%.
- If payroll is over $750,000 the percent is 8%.
The Senate Health Education Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee has a mandate for employers of more than 25 employees to provide coverage for employees or pay a flat fee to the government.
What will the outcome be? I guess we’ll need to wait until September when all the players return to Washington and report on what they heard from their constituents in their home districts. As they say, it’s not over until the Fat Lady sings and only a fool would venture a guess as to the final outcome.
Every other month, the Small Business Legislative Council (SBLC), the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the United States Chamber of Commerce (USCC) co-sponsor a small business community forum with various officials of the Internal Revenue Service. The purpose of the meeting is to support the IRS’s efforts to become a more user-friendly agency and more customer (citizen) centered.
The most recent forum took place on July 21 at the headquarters of the USCC. The session featured a presentation by Eileen Mayer, chief of the IRS Division of Criminal Investigation. Clearly, Mayer had a message for us: “We’re coming after you and we’re getting better at what we do – identifying criminal actions related to the enforcement of the Tax Code.”
The underlying theme of the presentation was that there is significant underpayment of taxes and the IRS is charged with enforcing the laws to make sure everyone pays their share. Mayer outlined several strategies employed by the IRS to ferret out tax cheats.Here’s a quick list of the IRS priorities in moving toward great compliance.
- The IRS wants to focus on voluntary compliance and is encouraging taxpayers to fess up to their errors and come into compliance voluntarily.
- The IRS is targeting abusive tax schemes (increasing expenses to reduce tax obligations, for example).
- Going after non-filers.
- Targeting those who file fraudulent returns – outright lying on the return.
- Targeting money laundering and financial schemes. Are you accepting large cash payments for seasonal sites or the sale of a park model?
The IRS uses risk scores to identify the most likely returns to be fraudulent and warranting examination. Beware, the IRS is looking at small business as a primary source of the tax gap, underreporting revenue and over reporting expenses.
A word to the wise: Don’t mess with the man.
Yellowstone Snowmobile Rule
Draws Wrath of Wyoming
Another old friend is back on the agenda – snowmobiling in Yellowstone Park. Why is this important to ARVC and the campground industry? If the federal government can ban snowmobiles from national parks, perhaps banning RVs is the next step.
Snowmobiles are loud and scare the park wildlife. RVs are big and bulky, take up valuable parking space and, in the eyes of some Americans, are large and unsightly in such a pristine environment as a national park. So, you see, we need to hang with our snowmobile brethren.
This issue has been debated within the National Parks Service and in Congress for at least 15 years when the Clinton Administration attempted to ban snowmobiles from the parks. Clinton went one way. Bush went another, Obama’s sort of back to Clinton’s posture and the battle rages.
Here’s a look at what’s happening in this unique arena.
Wyoming elected officials are reacting with extreme hostility to a July 24 Obama administration proposal to reduce by half the daily number of snowmobiles allowed in Yellowstone National Park. Said Rep. Cynthia Loomis, R-Wyo.: “These proposed limits are far below what the Park Service itself recommended less than two years ago. This administration should spend some time reading why Yellowstone was established in the first place – for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people. I would venture a guess that if Teddy Roosevelt were around today, he would agree.”
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s proposal would authorize up to 318 snowmobiles per day in Yellowstone and 78 multi-passenger snowcoaches. The 318 snowmobiles cap is down from 720 snowmobiles per day allowed last winter. However, the peak number of daily snowmobile visitors last winter was 426. An average of 205 snowmobiles daily entered the park in 2008-09.
The Park Service last December under the Bush administration issued a rule that governed the 2008-2009 winter with a 720-machine cap. The Park Service said at the time it had no choice but to allow significant snowmobile use because U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Brimmer in Wyoming ordered it in a November 2008 opinion.
Brimmer’s decision countermanded a 2008 decision by Judge Emmett Sullivan in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that had thrown out still another Park Service proposal that had recommended 540 snowmobiles per day last winter.
When Secretary Salazar announced the proposed new 318 snowmobile cap on July 24, Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg said, “We have filed today a motion to enforce Judge Brimmer’s judgment in the pending case. We believe Judge Brimmer intended that the prior temporary rule limiting snowmobile entry to 720 per day was to remain in effect until the Park Service implemented a new final rule. What the Park Service is doing is implementing a different temporary rule.”
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., complained at a confirmation hearing held by the Senate Energy Committee July 28 for Jon Jarvis, nominated to head the Park Service, “This administration is developing an ideological agenda for the parks, one that will result in reduced public access and an increased maintenance backlog.”
And so it goes……..
David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He’s also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (703) 448-6863.