The House Committee on Energy and Commerce scheduled a hearing later this month to discuss a number of large companies' decision to take charges to earnings based on a provision in the healthcare reform measure.

AT&T, for example, said it would take a $1 billion charge in the current quarter. Deere announced a charge of $150 million, Caterpillar $100 million and 3M $90 million charge. The charges reflect a tax the new law imposes on a federal subsidy to companies that provide prescription drug coverage to their retirees.

Reps. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Bart Stupak, D-Mich., issued letters summoning the CEOs of AT&T, Caterpillar, Deere and Verizon to an April 21 hearing to explain the earnings charges. (The Verizon letter cited an email the company sent to its employees.) The letters argue that the companies' announcements of charges to earnings "appear to conflict with independent analyses" and cite a Congressional Budget Office report that estimated companies providing health insurance to more than 50 employees would see average premiums fall by as much as 3% by 2016.

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Susan Kelly

Susan Kelly is a business journalist who has written for Treasury & Risk, FierceCFO, Global Finance, Financial Week, Bridge News and The Bond Buyer.