Business Wire
Thursday, December 24, 2009

WASHINGTON – (Business Wire) The National Retail Federation expressed disappointment at today’s Senate passage of health care reform legislation, saying the measure does little to reduce costs for businesses and is likely to result in further retail job losses. NRF said the vote would be included in its annual ranking of key issues important to the retail industry.“The Senate thinks it has given American businesses and the public an early Christmas present, but this isn’t what we asked for and it needs to be returned,” NRF Vice President and Employee Benefits Policy Counsel Neil Trautwein said. “What we asked for and what Congress promised was a plan that would bring costs under control and make health care more accessible by making it more affordable. What we received are employer mandates and other provisions that will drive up costs that are already far too high and that will endanger the employer-provided health insurance system that millions of American families depend on. It’s time for Congress to go back to the drawing board and come up with a health care plan that would actually make solid progress in reducing costs. That would be a gift worth celebrating.”

“The employer mandates in both the House and Senate bills amount to a tax on jobs that will drive up labor costs for retailers at a time when the struggling economy and razor-thin profit margins give us the least ability to absorb the added expense,” Trautwein said. “If labor costs increase, many retailers will have no choice but to reduce the size of their workforces. The net result of this legislation is that some workers who currently have both a job and health insurance might find themselves with neither.”

The Senate voted this morning to pass H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, sponsored by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Lawmakers must resolve differences between the Senate bill and a conflicting health care reform bill passed by the House in November before the legislation can go to President Obama for his signature.

NRF last week urged senators to reject the Reid bill, saying its conditional employer mandate and other provisions make it “the biggest anti-stimulus legislation imaginable” and that it would lead to further job losses in the retail industry and other segments of the economy.

The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry’s key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees – about one in five American workers – and 2008 sales of $4.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations.