Thursday, March 18, 2010

Society for Human Resource Management Opposes Obamacare

I teach human resource management, worked as a human resource manager (in the employee benefits field) in corporate America for almost nine years, and so belong to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the organization that represents corporate human resource officers. SHRM's members range from smaller to the largest corporations.

Because of other responsibilities I haven't had time to carefully review how the lobbying for health reform has panned out. In 1994 I wrote a brief article about the lobbying for the Clinton bill that was published in the Journal of Economic Issues.

SHRM says it does not favor the proposed bill, although I suspect some of its members may disagree because the tone is modest.

The text of the e-mail I just received from SHRM follows.


Debate on comprehensive health care reform is entering the final stage. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate will likely vote on a comprehensive health reform bill later this week.

The pending legislation contains some provisions that are consistent with SHRM’s official position and some provisions that are contrary to SHRM’s official position. Additionally, the impact of other portions of the bill cannot be fully assessed until more is known about how they will be implemented.

SHRM knows that the health care reform bill affects our various members and their organizations in different ways. This Legislative Alert is intended to help you contact your Representative and two Senators to share your views on this important issue.


The House of Representatives passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, on November 7, 2009. The Senate passed H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, on December 24, 2009. While SHRM opposed the House bill, the Society took a “neutral” position on the Senate’s health care reform legislation. The Senate bill was consistent with SHRM’s established Health Care Public Policy Position Statement in several areas and contained some positive reforms, however other major parts of the bill were contrary to our policy statement. As a result, SHRM could not support the legislation.

The final bill that will be voted on by Congress in the coming days is a modified version of the Senate-passed legislation, with additional changes. While it contains some positive provisions, SHRM believes the bill as constructed fails to adequately meet many of the critical reform objectives that our members told us were most important. As a result, SHRM cannot support the legislation in its current form.

In keeping with the views of the overwhelming majority of our 250,000 members, SHRM continues to advocate for legislation that lowers costs; strengthens the employer-based system; improves the quality of care; and offers access to affordable coverage for all Americans.

SHRM understands that our members have a strong interest in this issue. Therefore, we want to help you share your views or those of your organization with your elected officials. By following the HRVoice instructions below, you have the opportunity to SUPPORT, OPPOSE, or convey your thoughts about the pending health care reform legislation. Each of the three draft letters emphasizes different aspects of the legislation.

SHRM’s Position

SHRM’s position on health care reform was developed through a rigorous, member-driven process. After surveying members, holding numerous focus group meetings, and consulting with state Legislative Directors and SHRM’s Special Expertise Panels, we drafted a Health Care Public Policy Position Statement, which was subsequently reviewed and approved by SHRM’s Board of Directors.

In keeping with that Public Policy Position Statement, SHRM is committed to achieving comprehensive health care reform that provides high quality, affordable health coverage to all Americans in a manner that strengthens the voluntary employer-based system.

HR professionals understand that the current system, which has health care costs rising faster than inflation, is unsustainable. This is why SHRM has advocated for reforms that control costs. Specifically, SHRM believes comprehensive health care reform should:

Strengthen and improve the employer-based health care system;
Encourage greater use of health prevention, promotion, and wellness programs;
Strengthen the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to ensure a national, uniform framework for health care benefits;
Reduce health care costs by improving quality and transparency; and
Ensure tax policy contributes to lower costs and greater access.

SHRM compares its objectives for health reform with Obamacare. It opposes coverage mandates and employer penalties, and Obamacare does not meet this objective. It favors improvement of transparency and tort reform, and Obamacare does not meet that objective either. It opposes the excise tax on high-benefit plans.

However, there are many aspects of Obamacare that SHRM likes. These include the bill's inclusion of wellness incentives; its maintenance of the pro-employer (anti-employee) ERISA preemption of state law (of crucial importance to big business). It also supports the bill's provisions for "individual mandates and subsidies for low-income individuals = nearly universal coverage".

With respect to the last point, SHRM likes the fact that low-wage employees who work for small firms will, if the bill passes, be forced to pick up costs that SHRM's members now pay.

My guess is that if the bill fails it will be because the Democrats acted in haste and did not build a coalition that included interests like SHRM and other big business organizations that are supportive of the bill's main objectives but do not like this or that feature of the law.

Few economic interests in America, other than the great productive class of the red states has any interest or knowledge of freedom. The current system is the product of progressive "planning" and now that it has failed the solution is to advocate ever greater degrees of control and planning.

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