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Small Business & Retail — Congressional Drug Debate Could Hurt Small Biz

Wyoming Senator Spares

Small Firms From New

Ergonomics Legislation

A small business advocacy group is warning that the prescription drug benefits before Congress are a prescription for disaster.

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The Washington, D.C.-based Small Business Survival Committee, published a study June 28, “Fatal Economics: Government Prescriptions for Pharmaceuticals.” The report is critical of the major prescription drug proposals being considered by Congress.

Raymond J. Keating, chief economist for the SBSC and author of the study, noted that the study would actually make a bad situation worse.

“All of the critical problems that accompany increased involvement of government in health care , third-party payments, skyrocketing costs, increased taxpayer burdens, rationing and price controls , are not only kept alive but would be allowed to spread,” he said.

Small businesses will be in “real trouble” under the leading Democratic plans for Medicare. The plan to put caps on the cost of prescription drugs for the elderly would push up health care costs elsewhere, increasing the burden for small businesses. That will not only hurt the competitive position of small businessmen but also increase the number of uninsured, he said.

As for proposed legislation on pharmaceutical prices, these plans would either overtly establish government price controls over prescription drugs or attempt to import price controls imposed in other nations, Keating said.

Price controls only limit research and development for new and improved drugs. When government arbitrarily limits resources and returns, then there are fewer resources and incentives for investing in innovation, invention and improved efficiency, he said.

Genuine reform for Medicare that would deal with the issue of prescription drug coverage is still possible by shifting Medicare to a catastrophic insurance plan. This would provide retirees with a voucher option to choose their own health care plans, and make tax-free medical savings accounts available to all consumers, Keating said.

The full text of “Fatal Economics” is available through the SBSC Web site at (www.sbsc.org).

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Ergonomics: Small businesses in California can thank a U.S. senator from Wyoming for protecting them from the damaging effects of proposed ergonomics laws. But one of California’s own “turns her back on mom-and-pop companies.”

So says the National Federation of Independent Business. The group lauded Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., for his amendment to the Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Act, which would protect small businesses from a new costly and controversial ergonomics mandate.

Enzi’s amendment blocked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from using any of its funds for ergonomics regulations this year. It was approved 57-41.

Dan Danner, senior vice president of the NFIB, noted dozens of members had testified against the ergonomics mandate at numerous hearings hosted by congressional committees and by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration , to no avail.

“OSHA has turned a deaf ear to the concerns voiced by small business and is plodding ahead to implement the rule by the end of this year,” he said.

OSHA lacked credibility on the issue because its cost estimate for the rule is directly contradicted by another Clinton administration department. It had calculated that ergonomics compliance would be about $4.2 billion a year, but the Small Business Administration said the true cost could be between $40 billion and $60 billion a year, he said.

“You would think that somebody at OSHA would be embarrassed by the fact that others in the same administration say their cost estimate is ridiculously low,” Danner said. “But it appears that OSHA is willing to sacrifice its credibility in its haste to ram this new mandate into effect before it’s too late.”

Private industry says the cost could be even higher. In any case, small businessmen throughout the country had been saved from what could have been the costliest mandate ever imposed on small business, he said.

“Sen. Enzi is a true friend of small business in Wyoming and across America,” he said. “Enzi’s amendment could help shield small business from what would be the costliest federal mandate ever imposed on small employers who make up the backbone of our vibrant economy.”

The federation didn’t have such kind words for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who voted against the Enzi amendment.

“We don’t expect Sen. Feinstein to know first-hand how to run a business, but we certainly assumed that the sole proprietors and small firms, which make up 97 percent of all California businesses, might command some of her concern,” said Jon Seaton, NFIB spokesman.

“Did she not hear her constituents, or worse, does she just not care about their ability to provide jobs for the people she claims to represent?”

Send small business and retail news items to lzion@sdbj.com.

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