South Carolina’s small businesses are in a crisis state regarding the affordability of health insurance. Small businesses across the country are experiencing the same problem.
Health insurance has simply gotten out of reach for most small businesses. In our state, at least 60 percent of our businesses with 50 or fewer employees do not offer health insurance to their workers because of the cost to the business and the employees.
To make matters worse, the small businesses that do not offer the benefit have a difficult time recruiting qualified employees and retaining them. Workers without health insurance are less productive due to illness of themselves or a family member. These small businesses thus find it more difficult to compete and grow. This is not only a problem for the individual business, but it also is holding back our state’s economy.
The small businesses that do offer health insurance are struggling to keep it. More and more of their slim profit margins are being devoured by double-digit increases in health insurance premiums. These businesses find it difficult to compete internationally with companies that do not have to pay for health insurance due to their countries’ government programs.
To be blunt, we’re in a real mess.
The S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, with approximately 7,500 members, supports national health care reform that will result in affordable health insurance for all Americans and that controls health care costs. We need every member of our congressional delegation to be working to solve this problem.
So it concerned us when Sen. Jim DeMint declared, “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”
The small businesses of this state and this country are not interested in “breaking” the president. We want and we need affordable health insurance for all Americans.
Sen. DeMint’s comment clearly implies that he does not now support health care reform and instead looks on this issue as one to score political points on the president at the expense of small businesses.
This is unfortunate, and perplexing, since he has previously said that America’s health care system is “in crisis” and “does need reform.” Earlier he had outlined reform that shared two key features with bills now moving in Congress: It promised people that they could keep their present health insurance, and it proposed using public money to try to make health insurance more affordable.
But apparently our senator has decided that if Congress does not follow the health care reform that he prescribed, then he should lead the opposition – not to work for compromise, but to stop health care reform.
If he is successful, Sen. DeMint will harm every small business in our state. Health insurance premiums will continue to escalate. More small businesses will drop health insurance. Would-be entrepreneurs will continue to be reluctant to leave a job that has a health insurance benefit they cannot afford on their own. We will have fewer healthy employees and employers. More workers and business owners will file for bankruptcy due to enormous unpaid medical bills. The cost of health care in general, and Medicare and Medicaid in particular, will continue to increase, costing all of us more and more and more.
This is not a policy platform that any organization representing small businesses can support.
If health care reform fails this year, small businesses will remember those who chose to kill it for political reasons instead of contributing to solving this crisis.
Mr. Knapp is the president and CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce, www.scsbc.org.