Small Businesses Support Public Plan Option, Greater Government Role

small-business.gifA new survey released yesterday by the Main Street Alliance found that a majority of small business owners “believe government should provide a public alternative to private coverage” and “are willing to contribute their fair share toward a system that makes health care work for small businesses.” Despite the conventional wisdom — which states that small businesses oppose government involvement or mandates — the survey concluded that small business attitudes actually echo progressive policy prescriptions:

73 percent: willing to contribute financially to achieve quality affordable health coverage for their employees.

63 percent: willing to contribute 4 to 7 percent or more of total payroll costs, in place of current health care costs, to guarantee quality health coverage.

61 percent: expressed interest in being able to buy into a statewide or national health care pool.

59 percent: expressed interest in reform that included a public insurance option.

70 percent: said government should play a greater role in guaranteeing affordable coverage.

Small businesses grapple with the difficulties of a small risk pool, higher administrative costs and unpredictable premium spikes. In fact, rising prices have led many businesses to drop coverage entirely, increase cost sharing or switch to coverage with higher out of pocket costs and skimpier benefits.

Fifty eight percent of all small-business owners say they’re having a hard time keeping up with the cost of health care and the percentage of businesses with fewer than 200 employees that offer insurance fell to 59 percent last year, “down from 66 percent as recently as 2002, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.”

Comprehensive health care reform can certainly help insulate small businesses from growing health care costs and provide workers with options for coverage. While President-elect Barack Obama’s health care proposal requires large employers to provide health insurance to their employees, small businesses are exempt from the mandate and will be eligible for a new Small Business Health Tax Credit that will “provide small businesses with a refundable tax credit of up to 50 percent on premiums paid by small businesses on behalf of their employees.”

Small business owners and their workers would also be able to purchase coverage through a new Health Insurance Exchange that will allow public and private insurers to compete for applicants. As Sam Blair, the Director of the national Main StreeAlliance, explains “Small business owners recognize that the only way to stop this routine hostage-taking is to create a public alternative that gives those who are tired of the industry’s game another option. That means government is going to need to step in and play a role.”