An Unhealthy Debate

Why is Obama’s reform plan largely ignoring small businesses?

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By Kevin Kelly
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Oct 12, 2009

It’s that time of year once again when our nation’s companies begin negotiating, or get told, how much health-insurance premiums will go up in 2010. According to a survey by the National Small Business Association published in September, 92 percent of its members expect an increase this year—the other 8 percent being delusional, I suppose—and the average are betting on a 13 percent rise. I’m thinking more like 18 percent for no other reason than that’s what we’ve been hit with in recent years even though we are part of a large trade association that negotiates a group rate.

It remains an enduring mystery to me why my health-care costs rise in the high double digits each year while inflation putters around 2 percent. I only wish I had the market power to force such hikes on my customers. Instead, it is a cost we simply eat, unable to pass on, except to employees. The 150 people who work for our company pay about 20 percent of premium costs, which can run them up to $100 per month for a family. When we started premium sharing with our employees five years ago the share was half that. But it has grown each year despite our switching among lower priced plans that unfortunately hammer employees with high deductibles and copayments…

…I find business owners I talk to pretty frustrated as well. “Do you really think health care will be better or cheaper than what we have now?” asked one skeptical machinery manufacturer I met at a trade show in Las Vegas on Oct. 6. “And we can’t look to the government to save us. Just look at how out of control Medicare spending is.” A bag manufacturer about the same size as my company worried that not enough was being done to contain costs. “I may have to do away with health insurance altogether if it keeps going up, and I don’t think the reforms help,” he said. “But is anyone listening to us anyway?”…

The rest is here.

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