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Senate provision riles the construction industry

Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2009

A last-minute addition to the Senate healthcare bill that requires small construction companies to offer health coverage or pay a fine touched off a battle with some industry groups demanding its removal. The change, offered by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), says construction companies should offer coverage if they have five or more employees and a payroll of $250,000 or more, or face fines of up to $750 per employee per year if the employees receive tax credits. The threshold for other types of companies is 50. Construction-related industries say it is unfair to single them out, as the recession has hit them particularly hard. Recent data show that unemployment in construction is 19.4%, nearly twice the national average of 10%.