What Small Businesses Owners Think About the Health Care Battle
Last week, after 11th-hour changes and a heafty round of vote whipping, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced that he was pulling the Republican health care bill set to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), saying they “came close” but did not have the votes needed to pass the bill. As you’re probably aware, finger-pointing and blame-shifting ensued from there, but the bottom line is that the ACA — often referred to as Obamacare — remains the law of the land. Furthermore Speaker Ryan says it will stay that way “for the foreseeable future.”
While Democrats and others in opposition to the American Health Care Act (AHCA, as the Republican-backed bill was titled) cheered the development, The New York Times highlights a group less inclined to celebrate: small business owners. As the Times reports, recent surveys have found that 60% of small business owners were in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act. So what do some of these entrepreneurs think about the latest development — or lack thereof — in the health care battle?
First, some backstory. In addition to the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act that requires citizens to maintain a health insurance policy or pay a fine, the bill also includes an employer mandate. This states that businesses with more than the equivalent of 50 full-time employees must offer group insurance benefits to any employee that works an average of 30 hours per week or more. Similar to the individual mandate, employers who fail to meet this requirement are forced to pay up to $2,000 per employee in fines.
For that reason, LaRonda Hunter told the Times she’s put off expanding her Fort Worth, Texas-based chain of hair salons beyond that 50 employee threshold. While she told the paper she was disappointed with the outcome of last week’s repeal efforts, she thought that entrepreneurs, like herself, that see the ACA as a burden would force Congress to address the issue sooner rather than later. However, like House Republicans, it seems that other entrepreneurs were mixed when it comes to the bill that was on the table.
In a poll conducted by Small Business Majority, 39% of owners said they strongly supported the ACA over the AHCA compared only 16% who strongly preferred the Republican replacement. That sentiment was also expressed by Tom McManu who first told the Times that the ACA had a significant impact on his bar supply company’s bottom line. He then added, “Obamacare made it worse, but I didn’t see anything in the new bill that would have made it any better. They need to focus on the real health care problem: cost.” Similar another business owner, Tav Gauss, said, “The rising costs have taken a toll on all of my investments in people and equipment,” estimating that he’s spent upwards of $80,000 on paperwork and other systems to meet compliance for the law.
What makes matters difficult is that, at the end of the day, it’s not just profits on the line but people’s health. To that end, you can find thousands of testimonies from patients that speculate they may have died or gone bankrupt if the ACA and its protections, such as requiring insurers to accept applicants with pre-existing conditions, hadn’t been in place. Because of this and many other complexities that come with health care — not even including the politics of it all — the fight seems far from over, leaving small business owners on the front lines once again.