Democrats make Corporations that have taken cost write-offs from health care bill testify before them

From Fox News:

The CEOs of some of the country's biggest companies are being summoned to Washington to defend claims that the health care reform law would cost them millions -- a move Republicans say amounts to intimidation.

Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on Friday fired off letters to the heads of Caterpillar, Verizon, AT&T and Deere after they and other firms reported that the health care overhaul would dig deep into their bottom lines.

Caterpillar claimed it would raise costs by $100 million in the first year and imperil coverage for its 150,000 employees and retirees. Deere estimated it would raise expenses by $150 million.

Waxman, in his letters, called these estimates a "matter of concern" and said they "appear to conflict with independent analyses" showing the law would lead to a decrease in premium costs for large companies.

Waxman called the CEOs to Washington to testify at an April 21 hearing and requested full documentation from the firms detailing how they arrived at their estimates.

But Republicans said the committee was trying to "bully" companies for speaking out against the legislation. . . .

The expected losses by the companies are likely to be larger than these increased costs that the companies will post.

When Congress approved the Medicare prescription drug program in 2003, it included government incentives for employers to provide drug benefits to retirees so the public system wouldn't be overwhelmed. Employers that provide prescription drug benefits for retirees can receive subsidies covering 28 percent of eligible costs; those subsidies totaled $3.7 billion in 2008.
Under the 2003 law, companies could deduct the entire amount they spent on the drug benefits from their taxable income — including the government subsidy, an average of $665 per retiree.
The health care law signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday prohibits companies from writing off the subsidies starting in 2011, meaning they will no longer be able to deduct them from their taxable income.
For example, if a company spent $100 on benefits, including a $28 government subsidy, it could write off the full $100 on its taxes under the old rules. The new rules would allow the same company to write off only $72.
The follow-up health care bill to reshape parts of the overhaul would delay the changes until 2013.
As many as 1.5 million to 2 million retirees could lose the drug benefits provided by their former employer because of the tax changes, according to a study by the Moran Company, a health care consulting firm.
James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, said between 6 million and 7 million retirees currently get the benefits. But the number of companies offering them has been dwindling for years.
Generally, retirees would prefer to stay with prescription drug coverage provided by their companies as opposed to enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan, said Marilyn Moon, a health care economist with the nonpartisan American Institutes for Research. . . .

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