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Democratic leaders demand CEOs to prove their health care cost increases

Democratic Commerce Committee chair, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and former health care holdout, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) have ordered large businesses who say their health care costs will increase under Obamacare, to appear in front of the committee and prove their claims.

As the details of the health care costs trickle out, large companies like AT&T, Verizon, John Deere and Caterpillar began the process of alerting their shareholders of billions in added health care expenses that will affect their bottom line.

This small group of CEOs has been summoned by Democrats to appear in front of a Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on April 21, 2010. Democratic lawmakers are demanding these corporate CEOs gather their health care documents from this year and prove their “analysis related to the projected impact of health care reform.”

The business leaders are also expected to produce any emails or documents related to the impact of health care they circulated throughout their corporate hierarchy.

The inquisition into added health care costs came as a stunning revelation once the President signed the partisan legislation into law.

According to the Commerce Committee, “these assertions appear to conflict with independent analyses, which show that the new law will expand coverage and bring down costs.”

Each CEO received a letter from Waxman requesting the documents and their presence in Washington D.C. after the Easter recess.

The letter reads in part; “After the President signed the health care reform bill into law, your company announced that provisions in the law could adversely affect your ability to provide health insurance. AT&T stated in its March 26,2010, filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it intends to take a charge of approximately $1 billion in the first quarter of 2010.”

Many CEOs have implied companies may be forced to reevaluate its health care packages for retirees. Waxman further contends the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), costs were supposed to decrease, not increase costs as AT&T reports.

However AT&T stands by their claim and says they are filing the change in bottom line profits with the Securities and Exchange Commission because laws on the books require large companies inform investors of changes that directly affect the balance sheet.

A Business Week article reports “Companies like AT&T, that have large employee bases, are going to have higher health-care costs and, therefore, lower earnings unless they can negotiate something or offer less to their employees,” said Chris Larsen, an analyst at Piper Jaffray & Co. in New York.

The fact that Congress has demanded CEOs who informed their shareholders of the upcoming changes to appear in front of committees is viewed as another form of intimidating businesses to go along with the Obama Administration health package.

According to a recent Bloomberg Poll, only four in 10 Americans support the new health care legislation Obama signed into law last week. These numbers prove that Democrats have an uphill battle ahead of them as the details of the health care plan continue to see the light of day.

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Government to decide its role in U.S. media

According to Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman-CA, the government needs to step in and reshape the way America gets its news.

Now that the elections are over, many news outlets are struggling to make a profit and the plethora of websites that provide news has put a dent in the traditional main stream media, many of which are now begging for a government bailout.

Waxman claims that quality journalism is an essential process for U.S. democracy and argued that it was the duty of government to step in and prop up failing newspapers. However, many disagree with Waxman’s assessment of lagging newspapers, namely Fox News and talk radio in general. If one believes in the free-market capitalism model and a product no longer wanted by the public at large – the product fails.

Nobody will argue the media leans left in overwhelming numbers and since the country is a center right crowd, perhaps news organizations should tweak their product to reflect a true American market.

“Eventually government is going to have to be responsible to help and resolve these issues,” Waxman told a U.S. Federal Trade Commission conference on the future of journalism.

Free Press, a public interest organization, said “the search for solutions to the crisis in journalism should be premised on the idea that news-gathering is a public service, not a commodity.”

Also it’s worth pointing out that with the advent of the internet and the need for up-to-the minute news, the old newspaper model is becoming obsolete. In addition to the historic nature of the 2008 elections, there was a lot of news generated that cable outlets are no longer able to produce a profit. Voters have since left the television and gone back to business as usual.

On the table for discussion is giving media moguls the ability to purchase newspapers even though they own television broadcasts, however, this would consolidate a monopoly on a perspective on how viewers receive news. Waxman stated he was wary about allowing this to happen in greater numbers.

“Even greater consolidation of the business has not helped,” Waxman finished.

Perhaps media should start looking into the news Americans would like to read about and follow in the steps of outlets like Fox and talk radio that have enjoyed enormous rating increases with a center-right platform.

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