The incoming president of The Business Roundtable, which was once President Obama’s strongest ally in the private sector, said Monday that much of the group’s work on health care over the next two years will be looking for how Obama’s health care overhaul might “threaten” the ability of employers to continue providing insurance.
“The health care reform bill that passed, there’s mounting evidence that it doesn’t deal with the cost of health care,” said John Engler, who will take the reins of the 170-member BRT in mid-January, following the departure in September of previous president John Castellani, who moved to become head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Engler, who was the Republican governor of Michigan from 1991 to 2003 and is now the head of the National Association of Manufacturers, spoke to The Daily Caller by phone Monday.
“Virtually every company that’s a member [of the BRT] already provides health insurance. And those companies are proud of that fact, proud of the quality of the benefits they provide, and want to be able to afford to continue to provide them,” Engler said. “So there’s going to be keen eye looking out for, ‘What are you telling me are the changes and what do they mean in terms of what are the cost obligations of those changes, and how do they threaten what I’ve been doing?’”
Engler, who has denied that his move to the BRT signals a more confrontational approach toward the White House, said the BRT will be “actively engaged in the health care debate. He did not take a position when asked whether Obama’s health care overhaul should be repealed.
“I don’t think there’s anybody who believes that President Obama – while there was a bipartisan deal on taxes and now there’s bipartisan work being done on trade – is going to sign the repeal,” he said. “It’s not going to be signed in the next two years. That means our focus on what’s happening at [Health and Human Services] and literally dozens of other regulatory hot spots that are out there is going to be real important.
“We’re going to pay attention.”
As for the president himself, Engler said Obama appears to be changing his approach toward the business community and on the best way to spur economic growth.
“You build on the December bipartisan tax agreement, the Korean trade agreement, the deferral of some of these really expensive and onerous regulations and say that there are some signs that there is going to be a lot more cooperation,” Engler said.
When Engler was named to the post last week, he said “one of the first people to call” him was Valerie Jarrett, a close personal friend of Obama’s and one of his top advisers in the White House.
“I think there’s a recognition that if we’re going to get this 9.8 percent unemployment rate down, we’re going to have to work together, not just have a conversation and either talk past each other or just have talks, but really think about the specific things we need to do,” he said.