...we remind you that unemployment compensation is not a poverty program. Some claimants have substantial assets. For example, 1979 income tax records reflect more than 1 ½ million tax returns reporting adjusted gross income of $20,000 or higher and also receipt of unemployment compensation. Moreover, when unemployment benefits are combined with other income-support programs, some claimants actually come out better than when they were working.
…we oppose Federal financing for such programs [that provide health care for the unemployed], since Federal deficits are already at record high levels. We also oppose new entitlement programs that have the potential to become open-ended. Some proposals amount to welfare programs without appropriate means tests.
…the chamber remains committed to sound policies that will improve the economy and promote employment. We also remain committed to promoting the solvency of the States’ beleaguered unemployment insurance fund….First, the problem of lack of health insurance for the unemployed will abate as the economy continues to improve and unemployment is reduced. A continuation of the trend toward a reduction in taxation, regulation, and interest rates will help to achieve the dual goal of fuller employment and protection against health care costs.
Unemployment always lags behind the business cycle and is highest when recovery has begun. In such periods, when pessimism is pervasive, costly proposals are often advanced, such as public programs to create jobs, mortgage subsidies, and health insurance for the unemployed. These proposals always prove to be unnecessary since they never get fully started until recovery is going strong. Furthermore, such programs would increase the federal deficit at a time when it needs to be reduced. This would mean applying the wrong solutions, which would increase the deficit, abort the recovery, reinflate the economy and continue unacceptable high levels of employment.
We also oppose those proposals that would increase employers’ labor costs. Mandating through tax penalties that employers carry laid-off workers for some specified period or open health plan enrollment to spouses, or contribute to an assigned-risk pool, would place them in double financial jeopardy. Employers’ response could be to drop their health care plans altogether and/or lay off more workers.
Many options already exist to provide unemployed persons with health insurance or protection against health care costs. These include: continuous coverage provisions in many employer-paid health care plans; the conversion privilege offered in many of these same plans: coverage under a spouse’s or other relative’s plan; and the social safety net, Medicaid.
…we urge you to be sure that these proposals don’t take away the incentive for unemployment claimants to accept part time and temporary jobs when permanent jobs are unavailable. At present, claimants resist such jobs, because earnings from 2 or 3 days of work will often disqualify them from any unemployment benefits. If claimants] lose their health insurance for weeks in which they are disqualified from unemployment benefits, they will have even less incentive to accept work when it is available.
Finally, we vigorously oppose proposals that would mandate a minimum benefit package. This requirement goes beyond the problem being addressed and infringes on the right of employers and employees to develop the kind of health care coverage they want and can afford at a time when employers and employees are being very creative in the design and are negotiating a very hard line with the providers and carriers of health care for more cost effective health care plans. Such a requirement would be particularly onerous to small businesses, which have been most severely affected by the recent recession.
Health care and unemployment are basically State-level concerns, with corresponding programs to meet these needs. The issue of health insurance for the unemployed should also be resolved at that level, without Federal intervention. Currently, 29 States have enacted some legislation dealing with health insurance and unemployment. We advocate that the States continue to resolve this and other health insurance matters.
All told, some 16 million or more jobs will be needed in the next seven years. The statistics on the recovery from the 1974 recession indicate that such job creation is achievable. The major problem is to accomplish this goal through sound economic recovery and growth without increasing inflation or discouraging hiring by adding to labor costs.