President Obama opened the door to tweaking parts of the Affordable Care Act during his press conference about the midterm elections, specifically endorsing proposals to modify a provision to to increase the tax compliance of sole proprietors. The so-called 1099 provision, which requires small businesses to report payments they’ve made to corporations for goods, has been condemned as overly burdensome by small business lobbyists and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
Obama insisted that the American people did not want to re-litigate the health care reform debate or repeal some of the more popular consumer protections, but said that “if the Republicans have ideas for how to improve our health care system, if they want to suggest modifications that would deliver faster and more effective reform…I’m happy to consider some of those ideas.” Then, he turned to the 1099 provision:
OBAMA: I know one of the things that has come up is that the 1099 provision in the health-care bill appears to be too burdensome for small businesses. It just involves too much paperwork, too much filing. It’s probably counterproductive. It was designed to make sure that revenue was raised to help pay for some of the other provisions, but if it ends up being so much trouble that small businesses find it difficult to manage, that’s something we should take a look at. So there will be examples where I think, you know, we can tweak and make improvements on the progress that we’ve made. That’s true for any significant piece of legislation.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner have endorsed the change, but this is the first time Obama has publicly opened the door to amending parts of the law. He did stress that he would not support revisiting the more popular elements of the law, like closing the doughnut hole and preventing insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. Asked about exit polls that showed that “one out of two of voters apparently said that they would like you to see it overturned or repealed,” Obama said, “it also means one out of two voters think it is the right thing to do.”
Sen. Mike Johanns’ (R-NE) amendment would have repealed the tax reporting requirement for small businesses, but made up for the revenue shortfall by eliminating $11 million from the Preventive Health Task Force and weakening the individual health insurance mandate. Sen. Bill Nelson’s (D-FL) alternative proposal would have required only larger businesses to report their transactions with vendors.
Earlier today, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also conceded, “If there is some tweaking we need to do on the health care bill, I’m ready for some tweaking.”