The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA), along with other organizations, sent a letter to President Obama expressing concern about an amendment included in the Senate-passed health care bill, which excludes the construction industry from the overall small business exemption to the mandate that employers provide a minimum standard of health insurance to their employees.

“We are concerned that the inclusion of this narrowly focused amendment, which targets only small construction employers, will ultimately prove disastrous for an already ailing construction industry,” says Michael O’Brien, president and CEO of NLBMDA. “The scope of the amendment language is worded in such a way as to potentially impact any small supplier, distributor or manufacturer whose business is dependent on the construction industry.”

Recognizing the negative impact that a mandate to provide health insurance will have on employers, both the House and Senate bills contain small business exemptions from this mandate. However, the amendment, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D –Ore.), specifically singles out the construction industry by altering the exemption so that it applies only to those firms with at least five employees-an extraordinary difference from the 50 employee threshold that every other American small business will enjoy, according to the association.

“This obvious effort to appease the building trade unions will only hinder the recovery of the housing economy and prevent the creation of jobs all along the supply chain, and it’s happening all under the guise of health care reform,” says O’Brien.

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