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Kline talks small businesses at health care summit

House Republicans nominated Rep. John Kline to give their introductory remarks at today's White House health care summit, and he responded by making an argument for reform via incremantalism (as opposed to a more omnibus, single-bill strategy). The example at hand — allowing small businesses to pool together to purchase insurance.

"I think that Senator Alexander framed our overall position very well when he said that we're looking at thousands of pages of legislation, and we believe a better approach is to go step by step to address these issues of cost," Kline said. "We certainly agree that you get better economies of scale if you can come together. We have proposed, in both the House and the Senate — in fact, for a number of years — that small businesses be able to band together in small-business health plans or association health plans"

Kline's full introductory remarks, transcribed by Congressional Quarterly and printed by the Washington Post, can be found here. He also featured in an exchange with New Jersey Democrat Robert Andrews over whether the federal government should have universal minimum requirements for insurance plans, with Andrews advocating for it and Kline against.

One other point I want to mention on this. House Republicans had many people to choose from when picking someone to make their case. Two very logical choices would have been Charles Boustany of Louisiana, a heart surgeon by trade who gave the GOP's response to Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress in September, and Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who actually authored his own health care plan.

Instead, they went with Kline, ranking member on the Education and Labor Committee. Kline has become an increasingly vocal policy wonk on health care and education since ascending to the top Republican slot on Ed and Labor, not too big of a surprise since that committee's jurisdiction includes health care and the economy. Given that this session has been all about health care and the economy, it has led to a vast increase in his exposure.

This exposure, as the voice of House Republicans on a national stage, is another step in that ascendancy. How big a step (and where he might be headed) I don't know, but it's certainly worth noting.

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Comments (2)

When viewed and analyzed carefully, it's clear that Rep. Kline and the Reb's approach to health care change (it certainly can't be called "reform") does nothing to help actual small town, small businesses.

It chooses big businesses and big insurance companies over mom and pop on main street right up and down the line. Any small business that's struggling to break even (even though well managed, providing excellent products and services, and well liked by its customers), and thus reporting little or no profit on which it can be taxed, is not helped in any way by tax cuts or tax credits because those things are applied to already non-existent tax liabilities.

Furthermore, allowing insurance companies to sell their policies in any state without regard to anything but their home state's regulations would bring us all the same benefits we've seen with the credit card companies over the past few decades - NO effective regulation.

The result will be that the insurance companies, like the credit card companies, will now be freely able to screw the public seven ways from Sunday while using deceptive and dishonest practices, and consumers, especially those with the most need, will be left without recourse when they've been ripped off.

There will be increased competition, all right, but that will be competition to make MAXIMUM profits for their shareholders and to pay their executives MAXIMUM salaries and benefits by figuring out how to collect the highest premiums from their policy holders while paying out the smallest number of claims (by hook or by crook).

There may be competition to provide the glossiest, most deceptive commercials, but there will be no competition to actually provide excellent service to the general public at the lowest possible cost. Wall Street would murder any company that sought to do so.

More of steal from the poor and middle class, give the proceeds to the poor starving people in the top 5% of income brackets. Truly plans only a big-business, big-money Republican could love!

You are right Greg. Small Businesses don't want anything to do with health care. They aren't health insurance professionals and even they lack the savy to extract the best from the most corrupt sector of our economy. What small business really wants is a simple public option or single payer or an exchange that is rigidly regulated so that benefits and exclusions are expressly outlined. They don't want more gobbledegook that is simply another deceptive package of for-profit insurance that specializes in exluding sick people and making all employees and employers ultimately vulnerable. Kline does not have a clue as to the absolute health insurance debacle that small business faces on a daily basis. What he does understand is the viewpoint of the Chamber of Commerce and the Corporations that run it.