Tim Levy's auto-parts business is in the midst of a double crunch, sandwiched by soaring health-care costs--
"It's far outpacing the rate of inflation," the president of Industrial Steel Treating said Monday. "And our ability to control it has just become more limited."
--and an auto industry hemorrhaging profits and workers.
"We're right at the 'Mendoza line.' It's been very, very difficult to eek out a profit given the reduced sales and those cost increases," Levy said.
Congressman Mark Schauer (D-Mich.) met Monday with Levy and employees of parts-supplier IST to discuss precisely those concerns -- a health-care roundtable with a focus on auto-makers.
"When GM, Ford and Chrysler pay more for health insurance for their employees per vehicle than they do for sheet metal, that's a real challenge," Schauer said.
The question, of course, is what exactly can be done to help pare those losses. Schauer says the bill working its way through Congress isn't perfect, but it is a start.
"That issue of cost-containment is one of the most important reasons why we need health-care reform, and it's what this legislation would do," Schauer said.
Specifically, the House bill, at least as it stands right now, would create a government-run health-care plan to compete with private insurers. The goal? Drive down costs and provide insurance for the nearly 50 million Americans currently without it.
"This is not a government takeover," the congressman stressed to workers during the roundtable.
And he assured them that their employer-provided benefits would be untouched under the current plan -- except that their costs would go down.
"The savings will come through cost-containment," Schauer said. "By making the health-care system more efficient."
Something Tim Levy -- and his workers -- are relieved to hear.