Small Businesses Fear Effect of Health Reform

The uncertainty over the Congressional healthcare bill has incited fear among some small business associations in Texas. They gathered with U.S. Chamber of Commerce representatives on Tuesday to say they're worried about ripple effects from the national healthcare reform — and unintended consequences for small businesses. 

Bill Hammond, president of the Texas Association of Business, called on Congress to either repeal or reform the national healthcare legislation. “For 14 months, small business owners and employees have worried and been concerned over the uncertainty of 'Obamacare.' The reality is like a scud missile landing on every business in Texas," Hammond said. “It’s bad for Texas, it’s bad for Texas employers and it’s especially bad for Texas employees."

The complaints stemmed mostly from fines that will be levied on small businesses that don't pay federally mandated healthcare premiums. Hammond and Pete Havel, a representative from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the reform's mandates and fines on small businesses will kill jobs. “We think this is bad for America and bad for Texas, as such a small business-driven state,” Havel said. “This is the last thing we need in this economy.”

Supporters of the healthcare reform didn't take long to fire back. In a statement, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, refuted the claims made by the groups calling for reform to the healthcare legislation. He said there are provisions in the bill that support small businesses. "Without health care reform, we would see fewer small businesses created," Coleman said.

He said health insurance reform makes it easier for small businesses to provide their employees coverage by giving them tax credits and the same bargaining power enjoyed by big businesses and unions. "With these tools, there are fewer barriers to creating and building small businesses," he said. "A small or family business will not have to fear going without coverage to pursue the American dream, open their own business and determine their own destiny."

But Will Newton, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said small businesses will be hit with new taxes, new reporting requirements and more mandates and paperwork under a “more powerful Internal Revenue Service.” “Small business owners are overwhelmingly opposed to this new law and terrified of the impact it will have on their own livelihood and the livelihood of those they employ,” Newton said in a statement. NFIB spokeswoman Laura Stromberg said members of her organization may choose not to fund health insurance for their employees, because it could be cheaper to pay the $2,000 fine for not providing it. 

Hammond said he believes something close to a free market economy would be best for Texas, and said he is optimistic about reforming the bill over time. “Small businesses’ decisions shouldn’t be dictated to them by the bureaucrats in Washinton D.C.,” Hammond said. “This is a corrupt product of a corrupt process.”

 

 

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.