Congress is about to take up legislation that would have profound and long-lasting effects on 17 percent of our nation’s economy—our healthcare system.
Most Americans agree that the system is broken and it’s high time it’s fixed. Small employers, who have the hardest time offering and maintaining health insurance for their employees, are at the forefront of those demanding solutions now.
Yet many in Washington would address the problem by making all employers, large and small, offer health insurance. You just can’t force small business owners to pay for something they can’t afford. That would be the biggest mistake policymakers could make. This policy, if enacted, would do great harm and virtually no good.
There are three arguments against this idea:
• It’s a regressive tax that falls mainly on low-income individuals, who will pay for this obligation through jobs lost, depressed wages and the erosion of other benefits.
• It doesn’t distinguish between those people who need help to purchase health insurance and those who don’t.
• It’s unfair to small businesses and their employees because it imposes punitive costs while ignoring their central problem — high prices resulting from their lack of market purchase power and the lack of a competitive insurance market.
Reforming the insurance marketplace would do far more to help small businesses and their employees by ensuring greater competition. That in turn would encourage insurers to keep prices under control.
To simply pass a law that would force employers to do something they just can’t afford is destructive in any economic environment, but in these incredibly trying times, it’s absolutely lethal. And it would hardly have the positive effects so many are eager to claim. This policy, if enacted, would be a job killer, plain and simple.
A recent National Federation of Independent Business research project found that if you force employers to offer health insurance, it would destroy more than 1.6 million jobs (assuming the employer contributes half the cost). Small firms would suffer the most, accounting for 66 percent of the jobs lost.
Think about it like this, because it may give you pause: Employees won’t have health insurance, nor could they afford it, if they don’t have jobs. In a time when we’re looking to our country’s job creators—don’t forget small business creates two-thirds of new jobs each year—now is not the time to impose a new burden on the very people we’re counting on to lead us out of this recession.
If we want to help Americans access healthcare, we need to tackle the real problem, and that is cost. We need to transform the broken marketplace of today into one where quality, affordable health insurance is available in the private market for everyone.
Dan Danner is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington, D.C.