NFIB leads charge for health care reform

Regardless of which administration leads the country over the next four years, voters are demanding that health care reform be at the top of the agenda.

One faction leading the call for reforms is the National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB).

The NFIB has launched a campaign dubbed “Solutions Start Here” to serve as the small business platform for health care reform. The NFIB has sent the platform to Congress and both presumptive presidential nominees to advocate the burden of healthcare costs on small business owners and employees.

The campaign intends to show the faces of the health care crisis by highlighting personal stories of business owners struggling to provide benefits for their employees.

According to the report, 28 million American small-business owners, their employees and their dependents who are uninsured. That’s more than over half of the 47 million uninsured in the country.  This is mostly due to rising premiums, which have jumped 129 percent since 2000, said NFIB spokeswoman Stephanie Cathcart.

Currently, the health care system favors big businesses (those with more than 200 employees), while small businesses face the brunt of the crisis, the NFIB says. Small businesses pay an average of 18 percent more than big businesses for the same amount of coverage.

Small businesses also must follow state mandates, which limit choices for coverage and availability of coverage, thereby driving prices up, Cathcart said. 

The system is hurting the backbone of our economy – the job creators, Cathcart said.

The NFIB reports that small businesses produce half of the private gross domestic product and create around two-thirds of net new jobs annually. They represent 99.7 percent of all employers.

Small businesses are the greatest source of new employment in inner cities, comprising more than 99 percent of establishments and 80 percent of total employment.

Less than half of these small businesses offer health insurance.

“What we see is owners are waiting longer until they put together that healthcare package,” Cathcart said.

To make health care affordable, the NFIB has looked to incremental bills in Congress, such: the SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) Act, a bipartisan bill designed to lower premium costs for businesses with less than 100 employees by 2011. The bill intends to offer nationwide and statewide plans, creating more choices and lower premiums for small businesses. Individual employees will also be able to choose their own plan.

Supporters of the bill, such as Milwaukee business owner and member of the NFIB, Debbie Wicker, believe it will help close the gap between big and small business premiums.

The NFIB is against a single-payer system.

“We should minimize the role of government to the greatest extent possible,” Cathcart said.

In this election year, health care plans will play a large role in the vote. Fifty-three percent of small-business owners and employees said that the most important factor in determining their vote is health care, according to an NFIB survey.

Small business voters could

determine the election, as they represent 43 percent of registered voters in the country.

The NFIB is not endorsing Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential election.

“We will work with either president,” Cathcart said. “We are ensuring that they know our materials and (healthcare reform) should be at the top of both candidates’ agenda.”

The campaign has listed 10 specific principles that health care reform should entail: universal, private, affordable, unbiased, competitive, portable, transparent, efficient, evidence-based and realistic.

For more about the NFIB health care campaign, visit www.fixedforamerica.com.

 

FACTS:

  • 28 million American small-business owners, their employees and their dependents are uninsured.
  • Insurance premiums have jumped 129 percent since 2000.   
  • Small businesses pay an average of 18 percent more than big businesses for the same amount of coverage.
  • Small businesses represent 99.7 percent of all employers.

Milwaukee entrepreneur’s story is part of reform campaign

Debbie Wicker, chief executive officer of Milwaukee based Mission Enabled, took part in the NFIB health care message to Congress. Her story was used to put a face on the statistics of small businesses’ health care struggles.

Wicker founded Mission Enabled, a web-publisher for non-profit organizations, in February. Because of the costs, she is unable to provide her two employees with health care insurance. Her story, with dozens of business owners across the country, was sent to Congress and both presumptive presidential nominees. Her message follows:

“I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and in February of 2008, I decided to branch out and start my own business, Mission Enabled, and began publishing Drug-Addiction-Support.org. My company provides Web publishing for not-for-profit organizations. I have two employees, and finding health insurance is a huge challenge.

“Before I started Mission Enabled, I was in the publishing industry for 10 years and worked for a large corporation. I was regional vice president and knew exactly what we were paying per employee for healthcare. We were in a pool that paid $5,200 per year for family coverage, and it was very good. When I went to work for a small business, it went up to $18,000 per year. That huge cost difference discourages entrepreneurial people like me who want to open their own businesses but can’t because $18,000 per year for healthcare is just not affordable.

“I don’t think most people realize the particular burden small business is assuming. Ten years ago, health insurance wasn’t a huge issue. It has gone from something that you never thought about to a major problem. It is one of my largest costs. Eventually, I won’t be able to afford employees, and I’ll have to use contractors.

“The healthcare crisis will not improve on its own, and to make sure my new business can sustain itself, healthcare will be a major factor in who I vote for in the next election.”

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