Murkowski Says Construction Industry Unfairly Singled Out in Health Care Bill and That Oil and Gas Industry Could be Particularly Affected

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, says that the construction industry has been unfairly singled out - and penalized -- in the health care bill that the Senate is expected to pass on Thursday.

Murkowski, who plans to oppose the health legislation, said the construction industry provision was tucked deep inside the 2,733-page bill, and apparently had not drawn any scrutiny until she raised it in a floor speech Tuesday evening. Murkowski said she became aware of the provision after being contacted by the Anchorage Home Builders and the Alaska State Home Building Society.

The bill does not specify which types of construction businesses would be affected, which means that federal bureaucrats will be choosing winners and losers should the Senate health care bill become law. Since the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Labor Statistics utilizes the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), it is likely that oil and gas pipeline construction companies would be among those businesses forced to comply with the provision. That could be especially devastating to Alaska's oil and gas industry.

Under Majority Leader Reid's original health care bill, businesses with 50 or fewer employees were exempted from providing health insurance to their employees. But the Reid bill was amended at the last minute to include a new provision that removed the exemption for construction companies, forcing them to provide health insurance if they have five or more employees. Murkowski said she didn't know why the provision was included in the bill, which was written behind closed doors in the Majority Leader's office.

"Clearly, this could be destructive for a number of businesses in Alaska," Murkowski said. "The economic downturn has severely affected the homebuilding industry and related construction industries which employ thousands of Alaskans, so to single these industries out is unconscionable."

See attached letter from construction groups opposed to the provision.

# # #