The International Mass Retail Association (IMRA) is urging members of
Congress not to sign onto H.R. 216, the "Access to Quality Care Act of
1999" (AQCA), the successor to Rep. Charles Norwood's (R-GA) Patient
Access to Responsible Care Act (PARCA) in the previous Congress. "Although
this bill may be well-intentioned," says IMRA President Robert J.
Verdisco, "it contains many costly consequences that would hurt both
employers and employees."
The bill would remove employer protections under ERISA, the Employee
Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. ERISA currently protects mass
retailers and other multi-state employers from being subject to fifty
different state regulatory schemes, and thus enables them to offer
nationally uniform health plans without being subject to a variety of
In addition, ERISA shields employers who offer health insurance
benefits to their workers from lawsuits. AQCA could open employers who
sponsor health plans to new medical malpractice and other lawsuits. "If
this happens, many employers would be forced to reduce employee benefits,
increase already rising premiums, or drop coverage completely, in order to
respond to potential lawsuits," Verdisco says.
According to Verdisco, "Mass retailers are strongly committed to
providing employees with quality health care, but this act undercuts their
efforts to control employee health care benefit costs and severely hurts
employers' freedom to innovate and tailor health plans to the specific
needs of their employees."
In letters to Congress, IMRA argues that the government should
encourage employer-based health care by supporting market-based health
care reform, such as expanding medical savings accounts (MSAs). "Employers
voluntarily providing generous health benefits should not be discouraged
from doing so," says Verdisco. "This, unfortunately, would be the result
of expanding liability and excessive government mandate-writing--which
Rep. Norwood's new bill would invite."
For more information on this issue, contact Morrison Cain or Chris
Buchanan at IMRA, (703) 841-2300.
The International Mass Retail Association represents consumers' first
choice for price, value and convenience. Its membership includes discount
department stores, home centers, category dominant specialty discounters,
catalog showrooms, dollar stores, warehouse clubs, deep discount
drugstores, and off-price stores. IMRA retail members operate more than
77,000 American stores and employ millions of workers. One in every ten
Americans works in the mass retail industry, and IMRA retail members
represent over $411 billion in annual sales.