I’ve heard a lot about the problems with our health care system during the Democratic primaries. And rightfully so. It’s alarming that after 10 years of increasing coverage, the rate of uninsured Americans rose by 2 million in 2018. What I have not heard a lot about, however, is the plight of small businesses struggling with ever-increasing health care costs.
I would think someone running for president would be interested to learn, as a recent poll by Public Private Strategies shows, that small business owners are so desperate for relief on health care costs that they will embrace policy ideas from across the political spectrum without regard to ideology.
Perhaps it’s not news that health insurance is an expensive benefit for small business owners to provide. But it is noteworthy when small business owners — the people who employ half the private sector — say the cost of health care is still their No. 1 problem.
With all the worries about a recession, it’s significant when small businesses — the economic engines of our economy that create two-thirds of all new jobs — say they are being crushed by health care costs.
And shouldn’t policymakers concerned about an ever-widening wealth gap tune in when small businesses — where many low-wage workers find jobs — are being forced to shift health care costs onto their employees?
Small business owners support both progressive and conservative policy solutions: 90 percent support allowing more generic drugs to come to the market, 85 percent support capping out-of-pocket expenses and 80 percent support reducing bureaucracy governing health care. I’m sure candidates would be interested to learn that the poll found 58 percent of small business owners support Medicare for All, and 73 percent support allowing their employees to buy into Medicare or Medicaid. I would think President Trump’s ears would prick up at the mention of the fact that a variety of proposals to bring down the cost of prescription drugs earn more than 75 percent support.
So far during this election season, however, we’ve heard little about how the cost of health care is ravaging small business owners and their employees. On the ground it’s different. Small business owners talk about it all the time.
As a CPA specializing in serving small business owners, those poll results reflect what I hear from my clients. Every day, I sit across from small business owners struggling to continue to offer health coverage to their employees — who they consider family — and having to make heartbreaking decisions. I’ve seen small business owners increase the premiums their employees have to pay. I’ve seen them reduce prescription benefits. I’ve even seen them cut their coverage altogether. And it’s awful. Every time a small business owner is forced by the ever-increasing cost of health care to make that kind of decision, a lot of people suffer.
Millions of people work for small businesses and millions depend on those businesses for their health insurance. Yet, 34 percent of small business owners polled said they have considered cutting coverage altogether. Could you imagine the crisis in coverage that would precipitate?
We can’t afford to let small business owners go this alone. We need leadership, we need ideas and we need action. We need policymakers who are willing to engage on this issue and a news media that will ask tough questions about what those policymakers plan to do to help small businesses and their employees.
We all know that politicians love to invoke the good name of small businesses when they are on the stump because entrepreneurs have earned the nation’s respect. The PPS poll shows that a politician who is willing to lead on this issue will be welcomed by a motivated constituency. About two-thirds of small-business owners have already spoken with other owners about health care costs, and 92 percent are willing to work together to push for changes to make health care more affordable. Active small business owners would make formidable allies for any candidate willing to take on the issue.
The PPS research was more than an ordinary poll. It was a cri de coeur from America’s small businesses. The cost of health care is not an ideological issue for our entrepreneurs; it’s an existential one.
Will our leaders listen?