Our computer & networking consulting company started with 3 people, and grew to 15 by the time we sold ownership of it a few years later. We stayed effectively independent for a while longer, up to almost 30 employees. One of my clearest memories of the early days of the company is when we got a health plan.
There were only 5 of us, and we’d just filed incorporation and gotten our own office a month or so earlier. I particularly remember the meeting when a representative from the health plan we were considering came to tell us all about it. When we asked him about eye coverage, he started saying that few of their customers bother with that, so he hadn’t brought the relevant info, but then he looked around the room, saw five pairs of glasses, and said he’d get it for us 🙂
Ginny Coppola has been consistent about dodging the issues where she differs with Claire Naughton, and she seems to be following that pattern here. She’s not saying, outright, that she opposes the House plan, but she’s telegraphing her opposition while building up an excuse for it. The paper quotes her talking about her late husband’s business, which she worked for:
“But hurting small businesses … they’re the backbone of the state’s economy. We provided insurance, and after 20 years in (Michael’s) business, we were able to provide a good living to all of our employees and their families.”
So what’s she saying? “We provided health insurance for our employees, but I don’t know that we could have grown if the state had pressured us into providing health insurance by threatening us with an extra tax if we grew beyond 10 employees before we did it”? Is she saying that being exempt from a tax that other businesses (who don’t provide health benefits) have to pay, would have hurt them? I really don’t get it.
Our business treated health benefits as an early priority. We got it months before we even started payroll. We were living off our savings (or, in my cases, having depleted my savings, off small advances and borrowing from my girlfriend to pay the rent). Now, I feel strongly that we shouldn’t have had to do that. Having to provide health benefits to employees is a major drag on business, and we’d have had an easier time if we hadn’t had to do that. I also feel strongly that we needed to do it, right from the beginning. And we did grow.
The right solution, I think quite obviously, is single payer coverage. If the state covers everyone from a common pool, no business has to deal with this at all. But until we have that, we’re expecting health care coverage to come from employers, and some employers cheat the system by not doing it. They get away with lower costs, and an unfair edge over employers who do the right thing.
What the House plan does is even that edge. Instead of getting away with lower costs, these businesses would pay for the health care they’re not providing directly. But it doesn’t do so across the board. Businesses with over 100 employees are subject to the full tax. There’s a lower rate for 10-100 employees. And the smallest businesses, or those just starting up, get the edge that larger companies could no longer get: not providing health coverage, and not paying for it. This gives small businesses a leg up over their larger competitors, and allows them to choose when to start taking on the responsibility (as long as they do it before they reach 10 employees). It reverses the current situation, where small businesses who do the right thing and start providing health coverage early, are at an extra disadvantage against large corporations who don’t.
Claire Naughton gets it:
(Disclosure: I have done paid work for the Naughton campaign)
but one thing that has been noticably missing in the health care debate has been statements from actual small businesses giving their position on the bill.
I know that it is often difficult for small business owners to weigh in on a debate because running a small business takes an incredible time committment. Nevertheless, I think it would be far more effective to have actual small business owners (like the original poster) saying that the House plan would be good for them, rather than organizations like Health Care For All simply stating that the plan would be good for small business.
When we talk about “the business lobby” in Massachusetts and elsewhere, we should understand that the big business lobbying groups represent the sort of medium- to large businesses that can afford to hire lawyers and lobbyists. Small business owners don’t have the same type of representation as the bigger groups (NFIB typically represents the interest of medium-sized employers more so than smaller employers). Given that small- and big business interests often do not converge, this is important.
With all that said, in my opinion Health Care For All really has to do a better job culling the pro-assessment opinions of actual small business owners if they want the House plan to go through.
based on nothing, is that most small business owners don’t want to piss off the Chamber of Commerce by publicly pointing out that the Chamber is full of crap on this issue. So they just keep their mouths shut and wait for the whole thing to blow over. Can’t really blame them – they’re in a tough spot.
I agree, and that’s part of what I was trying to do with this diary. Perhaps some other current or former small business people will pick up the theme too. If you know any, encourage them to write letters to the editor of the Glob and Herald.