Wednesday, December 07, 2005

John McDonough Smacks Down Scot Lehigh

Heath Care for All's John McDonough is a busy man these days. On Monday, he took Time Magazine's Joe Klein to task for writing a "love letter" to Governor Romney in the pages of that publication. Yesterday, he had to set the Globe's Scot Lehigh straight after he uncritically transcribed the talking points from Bay State business groups like the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in his column. The employer mandate, Lehigh argues, would be a disaster as firms that don't offer health insurance currently, like Dunkin Donuts, would certainly move out of state to someplace where the cost of doing business isn't as high. Let's leave alone the claim that Massachusetts is an expensive place to do business (it is, not because of a high business tax burden, but because of energy, housing and, ironically, health care costs) and let McDonough respond:

The firms that don't offer coverage are service, retail, food and construction -- companies that can't move across state borders or to Taiwan because they can't take their business with them. A February state survey of businesses that have workers on MassHealth or the Free Care Pool showed these businesses on the top of the list: Dunkin' Donuts, Stop & Shop, Walmart, McDonald's, and Unico (janitorial services). If we stop these business from ripping off taxpayers, guess what, none of them can move out of state. If they do, good riddance, and let another firm take their place that provides decent health coverage to workers and stops ripping off taxpayers to boot.
Firms that don't provide health coverage to workers are costing everyone else money. Most companies, in fact, do provide health coverage because they want to be able to lure the best people. I'm not saying we should hold the companies that don't hostage, but I certainly don't think we should be subsidizing them.

The only argument that Lehigh makes in his own article that makes any sense is when he says that the House bill will encourage companies to take on more part-time workers and hire more people as independent contractors, rather than full employees. These are the kind of unintended consequences we should be talking about, not whether a Dunkin Donuts in Seekonk is losing business to a franchise in Providence.