Without debate or advance notice, language was added to the Senate health care legislation that singles out small construction firms for harsher treatment than any other industry. Whereas most employers with fewer than 50 workers that do not offer health coverage are exempt from fines that apply to larger employers, under the newly added provision, construction firms employing as few as five workers would be subject to health care coverage fines.

Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, issued the following statement regarding the late-night inclusion:
    “Unconcerned that construction has endured more pain than any other sector, supporters of the Senate health care bill appear poised to exclude the industry from thoughtful measures designed to protect small businesses. With construction unemployment already at 19.4 percent, nearly twice the national average and higher than any other category, the Senate’s decision couldn’t come at a worse time for contractors.

    “It is impossible to understand the wisdom of singling out small, mostly family-owned construction firms, even though the vast majority of them already provide comprehensive health insurance. If Washington was looking for a way to push more construction workers into unemployment lines, the late-night amendment to the health care ‘reform’ measure does just that.”