Regulation

Small Business Owners Ready For Congress To Take On Costs

The failure of the United States Congress to either repeal or replace Obamacare has left America’s small business owners looking to Congress for new solutions for limiting their healthcare costs.

SMBs as a whole have been among the most vocal and angry opponents of the healthcare law — according to surveys, about 60 percent of the nation’s independent business owners would like to see the law repealed. The National Federation of Independent Business (the trade group that represents the sector) even challenged its constitutionality before the Supreme Court.

But in the wake of the epic meltdown last week over healthcare reform — and an increasing chorus of voices noting that repeal is not sufficient on its own, and that replace (or at this point, tweak) is an equally important part of the equation — SMB owners are overwhelmingly reporting that what they want is bipartisan cooperation and an acknowledgement that the country’s health care economics are fundamentally broken and require their combined efforts.

“The cost of health care had a significant impact on our profitability last year,” Tom McManus, the chief executive of Buffalo bar supplies retailer KegWorks, told The Times. “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.”

“Rural areas like ours are seeing insurance companies just flee,” noted Thomas E. Secor, who runs the small manufacturing business Durable Corporation in Norwalk, Ohio. “Until somebody comes up with something that addresses cost, you’re going to see a continual erosion of coverage. I don’t care which party it is. Let’s all get together and work on a better product, because what we have now isn’t working.”

There have been advances — though none miraculous — in the age of hyper-partisanship. In December both parties collaborated on the 21st Century Cures Act. Among changes, the new rules make it possible for small firms to use pretax money to reimburse employees for insurance that they bought on their own. The Cures Act revived that arrangement, giving it a legal green light for companies with fewer than 50 employees.

But change in healthcare may well remain on the horizon — and SMBs may just be looking at high costs for the immediate future. Both the president and Speaker of the House have signaled that they are done with healthcare at present, which means no new bill or repeal vote is in the offing.

But SMB owners hit hard by Obamacare and promised relief by the new government may not be quite ready to let this drop yet.

“I’m going to urge all of my senators and representatives to continue to work on this,” one hair salon owner told The Times. “Waiting for it all to explode is a terrible solution.”

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