The National Retail Federation released the following statement from Vice President for Health Care Policy Neil Trautwein in response to a plan unveiled today by House Republican leadership to replace President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

“Speaker Ryan’s proposal represents an ambitious and aggressive start to the next round of conversations about the direction of health care in this country. NRF looks forward to participating in that discussion.”

“We see parts that we like, such as repealing the employer mandate and the ACA’s definition of 30 hours a week as full-time rather than 40, but other pieces need significant work. We are greatly concerned by the proposal to cap the employee exclusion from taxable income for employer-provided health benefits.”

“For employees, this will amount to a tax on a portion of their benefits, thus reducing their total compensation. Given that employers are in no position to compensate with higher wages, unhappy employees are a likely result. Any human resource manager can readily testify as to how sensitive employees are to the slightest change in benefits. The much reviled Cadillac tax also sought to drive down health care consumption by reducing employee benefits. We oppose them both. Policymakers should look elsewhere – medical providers, for example – to address rising health care costs.

“Retailers agree with the leadership’s vision of a competition-driven private health care market. However, employer-based health benefits are the source of coverage for 175 million Americans, and care must be taken to preserve this foundation.”

“In a post-ACA environment without mandatory individual participation, employees will become even more resistant to increases in their share of the cost of employer-sponsored benefits. Younger, healthier employees may choose to drop their coverage all together rather than pay more taxes.”

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries.