Viewpoint

One Business Owner's Take on Health Reform


Back in July, I wrote an opinion piece about the proposed health-care reform and how it would affect small companies such as mine. At the time, I said I was in favor of the proposed legislation. At the time, I said it would help reduce my costs and make it easier to budget future expenditures. Now that it has passed, I still think the legislation, even with all its revisions, will be a good thing for my business.

Politically, I haven't changed. I'm not pining for George Bush but I still lean to the right. Even so, I don't believe a lot of the scary stuff I hear. I don't believe there are "death panels." I don't think the government is "taking over" health care. I don't believe our President is a "socialist." Nor do I believe Rahm Emanuel has cellulite on his bottom, no matter what my sources in the Congressional gym tell me.

As a taxpayer, I'm still very concerned about this reform. I am concerned about the rising deficit and a government trying to do too much, too soon. I'm also very concerned about all the uncertainty: John McCain says health care reform will "bankrupt our great nation" while our President says it'll save us billions. There are huge, scary concerns with huge, scary repercussions.

As a business owner, though, I'm not scared about health-care reform. In fact, I'm kind of liking it. I'm not being forced to buy health insurance. I employ less than 50 people, so my company is exempt from this requirement. If I were to choose not to have health insurance, my employees would have the ability to get it on their own. They would also get tax credits to help pay for it.

preexisting conditions: no obstacle

I do offer health insurance. Unfortunately, the plan I offer kind of sucks when you compare it to what larger companies offer. The costs have gone up a lot over the past few years. Worst of all, they continue to be completely out of my control. For years business owners like me have been whining and moaning for someone to do something about this mess. And something is finally being done. I hope it will be a success.

With health-insurance reform there will be more people available for me to hire, too. These are people who have life-threatening issues such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and Toyota (TM) ownership. Insurance companies consider some of these things to be "preexisting conditions." But business owners like myself cannot hire these people because our insurance plans won't cover their health expenses and we can't afford to make up the difference. With health-care reform, my plan will cover them.

I'll also be able to participate in insurance pools, which will hopefully mean I can buy products that offer benefits that I couldn't offer my employees before. This way I can compete on a more level playing field with my larger counterparts. I can mismanage my finances, overpay my top people, and heartlessly lay off staff. Oh, and I can also provide coverage for dental, eye care, and prescription drugs.

I'm going to have more opportunities to outsource work and therefore keep my overhead under control. Why? Because there will be more people willing to leave their jobs and take subcontracted work from me. Why? Because the cost of health insurance won't hold them back as much. It's kind of tough to want to become an independent contractor when the minute you leave your job you have to foot the bill for your own health insurance. With the tax credits, this cost will be significantly reduced for those individuals. Look for a whole new crop of entrepreneurs to take notice of this…and give notice to their employers. Look for a bunch of business owners such as me to take advantage of their expertise…but only when we need to.

a 35% paid-premium tax credit?

Another good thing? It seems I'll face more choices. Today the same slippery brokers represent the same cheesy health-insurance companies selling the same boring products which, just by coincidence, increase in price every year. Now I'll be able to participate in national insurance pools and have better opportunities to purchase insurance for a lower price too. This shakeup should be interesting.

And guess what? I may be eligible for a credit of up to 35% of the premiums that I pay. There may be other incentives after 2014 if I buy my insurance through a state exchange. At least if I don't provide insurance I won't be penalized; that affects only companies with more than 50 employees. But from what I read, most companies of that size provide health insurance anyway.

Will the quality of our health care improve under these new reforms? Will the country save tons of money? Will our taxes go up? Will the "Marriage Ref" last more than three months? These are all big uncertainties. As a taxpayer and a believer in less government, I'm not crazy about these big changes. But as a small business owner focused on profits, I see no reason to complain.

Gene_marks
Gene Marks, CPA, is the owner of the Marks Group, which sells customer relationship, service, and financial management tools to small and midsize businesses. Marks is the author of four best-selling small business books and writes the popular "Penny Pincher's Almanac" syndicated column. He frequently speaks to business groups on penny-pinching topics. More penny-pinching advice from Marks can be found at www.quickerbetterwiser.com.

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