Legislators, both Republicans and Democrats, like to say they support small businesses. It’s one of the easier stands to make. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, small businesses account for nearly 50 percent of private-sector employment and 64 percent of all new job creation.
For many, it’s also the American dream to own a business. The challenge and freedom to control one’s destiny is why there are so many new ventures each year.
Small businesses are an economic force, and the many constituents running them are people that lawmakers would like to keep happy.
That is, until health insurance enters the conversation. Then, it seems that legislators are intent on making decisions that harm these entities.
Many small business owners and their employees rely on the individual market to secure health insurance. Obamacare has devastated this group—people who are working and striving to provide a comfortable standard of living for their family but aren’t able to pay $1,400 or more in monthly premiums for deductibles of $10,000 and higher.
The Republicans’ first plan to replace Obamacare involved eliminating the requirement to carry insurance but continuing the practice of covering all pre-existing conditions for those who do purchase insurance. It doesn’t take an economist to figure out that keeping high-risk factors and then spreading them among an even smaller pool of participants doesn’t pencil out.
Former President Bill Clinton was wrong when he said that Obamacare was the, “craziest thing in the world.” The Republicans’ initial replacement plan was the craziest.
Here in Iowa, Republican Reps. Rod Blum and David Young, along with Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack stated that they would not support the measure. Republican Rep. Steve King approved of it, although he at least championed the removal of several Obamacare mandates that have contributed to soaring premiums in the individual market.
Iowa can be proud that most of its U.S. representatives acted sensibly. Many from other states, though, put party loyalty ahead of constituent loyalty and were dangerously close to pushing through a health care “fix” that would have made the already bad situation of Obamacare even worse. The measure was never brought to a vote, but it showed what little, serious thought lawmakers put into an issue that does not directly affect them and their personal and generous taxpayer-funded health insurance.
Lee Iacocca helped to coin the phrase, “equality of sacrifice.” In the early ‘80s, as head of the failing Chrysler Corporation, he reduced his executive salary to $1 for one year and in return asked his many union employees to take a pay cut in order to keep the company afloat. In “Iacocca: An Autobiography,” Iacocca said, “Although my reduced salary didn’t mean I had to skip any meals, it still made a big statement in Detroit. I discovered that people accept a lot of pain if everybody’s going through the chute together. If everybody is suffering equally, you can move a mountain.”
Health care reform is a mountain that needs to be moved. Perhaps all 535 members in Congress should agree that whatever health care plan they come up with must also apply to them.
If small businesses must suffer, legislators can stand in solidarity with the self-employed and suffer along with them. Premiums may remain high while we’re seeing our way through this disaster, but the pain may feel not quite as sharp knowing that those in Washington, D.C. are going through it too.
If lawmakers had some skin in the game, maybe they’d be able to show genuine concern for small businesses and come up with a health care plan that makes sense.