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What does health care bill mean? Auto industry unsure for now

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What does health care bill mean? Auto industry unsure for now

Neil Roland

Automotive News -- March 22, 2010 - 2:40 pm ET

WASHINGTON -- The auto industry, which was largely noncommittal during the yearlong debate about changes to the national health care system, remains uncertain about the effects of the new health care legislation on the industry.

General Motors Co., American Honda Motor Co. and the National Automobile Dealers Association are reviewing the new health care bill that passed the House last night to determine what it means to automakers, suppliers and dealers.

"Throughout ongoing policy talks, GM will continue to work constructively to ensure its long-standing priorities of improved health care quality and cost containment are included in the bill's implementation," GM spokesman Greg Martin said today.

Honda's chief Washington lobbyist, Edward B. Cohen, said he is awaiting Senate action. "There are a couple of issues that we are not sure how they will look after the Senate acts on the House bill," he said today.

Said Ed Tonkin, this year's chairman of NADA: "Nobody knows exactly what's in the bill that was voted on. I know it's going to be expensive."

NADA has been monitoring the legislation through coalitions in which it is involved, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Tonkin said.

The House last night voted 219-212 to overhaul the U.S. health care system.

The bill, due to go to the Senate for a vote as early as this week, would extend coverage to an additional 32 million people by 2019. It also seeks to contain spiraling health care costs and prohibit insurers from suddenly dropping coverage for people who become ill and denying coverage to children with medical problems.

The legislation would cost the government $938 billion over 10 years, but those costs would be more than offset by savings in Medicare and by new taxes and fees, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees would receive tax credits to help them buy insurance for their workers. Starting in 2014, large employers could face federal fines for failing to provide coverage.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 11 domestic and foreign automakers, hasn't been following the health care debate, a spokesman said.

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