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America Outdoors E-News

March 14, 2008

Universal Health Care Becomes A Hot Campaign Issue for Small Business Important Note on Submitting Comments Electronically to the Forest Service Directives
General Accountability Office to Study Merging Forest Service with Interior
Universal Health Care Becomes A Hot Campaign Issue for Small Business

The rising costs of health insurance recently led the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a conservative association, to call for universal health care. NFIB joined with a group of strange bedfellows: the AARP; the Service Employees Union, the nation's largest union, with 1.8 million members; and the Business Roundtable to push a legislative agenda to deal with one of America greatest problems - the rising costs of health care and insurance. The America Society of Association Executives also ranked health care as the number one issue among its membership.

In a nutshell, the proposed solutions include:
  • Eliminating the state by state barrier that will allow the purchase of health insurance by pools across state boundaries;
  • Allowing employees and individuals to claim a deduction for purchasing health insurance;
  • Portable coverage that can be transferred from one job to the next;
  • More transparency on health insurance costs;
  • Allowing employees and individuals to claim a deduction for purchasing health insurance.

The big adversaries to national solutions are state governments who do not want to lose their regulatory fiefdoms, which now require state by state regulation of health insurance. This regulatory hurdle prevents small businesses from banding together into national pools through their associations. Currently, a pool of employees has to be within a state under the same FEIN.

In 2003 the US spent 15.2% of Gross Domestic Product on health care, a higher portion than any western European nation. Germany, which is the third highest spent 10.8% according to the General Accountability Office. 63% of uninsured work for small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. The number of Americans covered by company policies has declined by 11% since 1997 for companies employing less than 500 employees (according to Forbes Magazine).

Important Note on Submitting Comments Electronically to the Forest Service Directives

When submitting electronic submissions, you do not have to indicate that you are a Federal Agency or select the Forest Service, according to agency personnel. Some outfitters have been confused by the submission instructions. However, your comments will still count if you selected those drop downs.

Comments are due by March 19th and may be submitted at the address below:

General Accountability Office to Study Merging Forest Service with Interior
  GAO recently advised the Forest Service that they were studying the potential for merging the agency with the Department of Interior. The possiblity of this merger has come up on numerous occasions. Since it would require an Act of Congress and a lot more support than probably exists now, the issue may be rhetorical for the time being. But, if the former head of GAO is correct, under the current fiscal tax and spending authorities the Federal Government will run out of money before 2030 for all federal programs except for entitlements and interests on the federal debt. At that point eliminating or merging Federal agencies may be a matter of fact.

The Chief of Staff of the Forest Service recently sent the following note to employees concerned about a possible merger with the Department of Interior.

The Forest Service has received notice that the Government Accountability Office will be conducting a review of options that might exist for consolidating the Forest Service into the Department of the Interior. This review is at the request of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. The topic was broached by Members of the Committee during this year's budget hearings.GAO routinely conducts scores of reviews of agency operations during the year, normally with agency involvement, and we have a standard process in place to handle such activities. The breadth of this review may entail greater involvement and coordination among officials throughout the organization, and we will have a better sense of the steps to be taken following the entrance conference that will be conducted with GAO in the near future. We will provide additional details on the review logistics to those who may be involved as that information becomes available. Beyond the Forest Service, officials from the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior will be involved in the review. Employees should be mindful that a GAO review of this nature is usually requested by a Committee as a preliminary information-gathering activity, and does not indicate a preference or likelihood of any subsequent action. This topic has been discussed numerous times over the years as government leaders ponder the most efficient organization for federal land management agencies.
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