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Small Business Owners React to Obama's Health Care Speech

Posted by: John Tozzi on September 10, 2009

I want to hear what small business owners think of President Obama’s speech on health care, and the state of reform as Congress resumes working on it. We’ll try to publish a few reactions from entrepreneurs. Here’s the first.

This is from Kimberley Weatherford, who runs software consulting business Red Eagle Consulting outside Atlanta. When she and her husband started the business, they bought COBRA coverage through a former employer. But shortly after that they had a daughter with heart problems that required surgery. “No insurer would touch her on an individual family policy,” Weatherford writes. “The only way to get her coverage beyond our COBRA period was to start a group policy for our company, so that is what we did.”

Despite her difficulties with the current system, Weatherford is somewhat wary about what a reformed system might look like, and she wants more detail from the president. Here’s her take on Obama’s speech:

I think the President is a wonderful speaker. He has grand ideals and presents them well, but the devil is in the detail. The details that I’m aware of in the currently proposed bills don’t necessarily support the sweeping statements he delivered. For example, the speech contains a statement that no one will be required to change their current coverage, but it ignores the fact that currently proposed changes will most definitely impact the cost of the current plans, defining what coverage we’re allowed to buy and mandating taxes on insurers. As a small business owner, I may not be REQUIRED to make a change, but the financial impact of the reforms may REQUIRE that I make a change.

Since the government makes the rules, the government option cannot reasonably be considered a fair competitor to private insurance. Would anyone think it reasonable to let Aetna or Blue Cross make the rules for everyone? It’s also interesting to note that the current methods by which Medicare rates are negotiated with providers are alleged to actually create a rise in non-Medicare costs for private insurers and the uninsured.

On the other hand, the President talked about reducing waste, exploring tort reform, and preventing fraud. These are more well-suited for the stated goal of reducing health care costs as opposed to current bills for reforming insurance. Again, however, we were given no detail as to how these goals might be achieved.

We want to feature a wide range of voices from small business owners on this topic. So if you want to share your thoughts, let us know, in comments below, on Twitter, or by email.

Reader Comments

jim clarizio

September 10, 2009 2:25 PM

I am amazed that any thinking person believes the Governmant will reduce cost for medical coverage. If this were true the Medicare and Medicade programs would have been solvent years ago. Government, let alone a Socialist oriented Government, will create cost we haven,t imagined yet. Business,s not Government are the problem solvers.

Mike Salzman

September 10, 2009 2:32 PM

I find the entire discussion to be disingenuous and diversionary. The real issues of poor and costly healthcare delivery are systemic and arise directly from the WWII based system that was put into the tax code back then. The Atlantic has an excellent expose of the issues as well as a very logical solution at

Obama's speech is great as a speech. The sound effects of all the hand clapping at certain phrases is disgusting theater, reminiscent of the chinese communist great assembly. His claims and assertions are mostly false and inaccurate, and were clearly inserted into the speech as political counterpoint answers to the points raised by opponents.

His solution vision is a gargantuan beauraucracy, laden with special interests and funded by yet more taxes. Like his financial reform failed to address the issues in the financial system, so this "reform" fails to address the delivery and care issues. Instead he seeks to create yet another entitlement system.


September 10, 2009 3:33 PM

I can be convinced. How about this:

Take two years and find/cleanup the problems with Medicare. Then we'll talk about the larger health care plans.

paul gallant

September 10, 2009 5:45 PM

The US has by far the most expensive and least effective health care system in the industrialized world. We spend double per person what Japan spends. Drugs in the US cost 40-50% more than in other counties. Our life expectancy is at the bottom. We are essentially the only country without some kind of universal coverage. The big health care companies profit from our sickness and they have huge lobbies to shape the laws and distort the media to their profitable ends. In short we are being ripped of by all the parties. It can't possibly get any worse than it is now. It's time to wake up America.

Glen Toadvine

September 10, 2009 6:33 PM

The president did not address the increasing cost of healthcare, the insurance companies are not the bad guys, mine is non-profit. Until tort reform is addressed we are headed toward disaster. I pay for my own insurance, I agree that the cost of keeping it may be too much unless HC costs are reduced.


September 10, 2009 6:39 PM

I am from New Zealand and sort of have same problems as medical and insurance is concerned. I have two close doctor friends. And per both of their wordings 'Medical professionals are like mafia.' I can see why people in medical and insurance industry will fight to death to keep their money making machine running as fast as possible. Come on guys, medical should not as that expensive as it is now. If someone trying to make it better, doesn't make him communist. I applauded your President efforts to make things better. I wish he was our president.


September 10, 2009 6:51 PM

congress has dodged this bullet for generations. Republicans are looking to derail this administration for political gain and no other reason. They have no interest in community service. The only reasonable idea that they have come up with is the "Trigger" plan however they are proposing that we wait another 5 years to see if the insurance companies and the healthcare industry clean up their acts. Another delay and it is obvious that they are using the 5 year plan in hopes that if they blame the democrats for failure, then the next election will lean their way. Then we will have another several years for a new idea and plan to be proposed. Watching those fat cats in congress play their stoic stay seated protest and then hearing that jerk from SC yell out that the president is a liar all goes to show why the public is fed up. Then the republican rebuttle was a disgrace. The first statement that came out of the representatives mouth was about not wanting a government run healthcare system. There is that scare tactic once again. Was he not paying attention or was he just playing the derailment game......

signed... an independent voter.


September 10, 2009 7:14 PM

Bottom line is, as long as insurance, bank, and pharmceutical lobbyists are lining the pockets of politicians we will never have a government that reflects the interests of the working people.

Scott L.

September 10, 2009 7:36 PM

My wife owns a small business (4 part-time employees + herself). I work for a company & she & I have health insurance through my work. She does not have insurance through her business or available to her staff. Is she going to be forced to offer it or pay a tax penalty? Is the tax penalty my employer may face if they drop coverage less than their current costs of offering the benefit? That will be the problem ... many companies would decide (and rightly so from a bottom-line business view of things) that the penalty is less cost than providing insurance to their employees, so many many people will be forced to buy gov't insurance ... with whatever coverage and cost they will want to impose.


September 10, 2009 8:46 PM

thanks for the rational view, paul! my husband and i have employer-based "healthcare", and it's not affordable! yes, employers pay part, but guess who pays when the rates go up? and they do go up, every year, while what's covered goes down.

we do our part to keep ourselves healthy proactively, but when we need so much as a blood test, 9 out of 10 times, it's rejected by cigna, necessitating hours of calls on my part to them and my doctor trying to rectify the situation...or we're stuck with a bill for $1,800 worth of blood tests, which makes me wonder...why do we have $12,000 worth of insurance annually, and cannot get anything covered?

to the know-nothings who spout about socialism, communism and all other isms they worry the administration is going to "force upon" them: few of you can define either term, let alone know what it would be to live under such circumstances. paul is right--we are overcharged for drugs, our so-called "best in class" care, and insurance. other western governments negotiate drug, hospitalization, and other therapeutic costs with their administrators so that everyone pays the same--is that so radical? i lived in france for several years, and can say that as a resident, i had superior care by well-qualified personnel at a price that didn't make me have to choose between eating and treating illness. there's your socialism.

and if you cannot get your head wrapped around that reasonable rationale, try imagining 40 million+ people in this country with no coverage and a pandemic. wouldn't you want those random people with whom you come in contact to be healthy? without insurance, preventive care doesn't get to the average person, let alone treatment of acute conditions.

indeed--wake up america!


September 10, 2009 8:58 PM

Weatherford's point, above, "It’s also interesting to note that the current methods by which Medicare rates are negotiated with providers are alleged to actually create a rise in non-Medicare costs for private insurers and the uninsured". Why do you think that is? Because providers (doctors, hospitals) are in the for-profit medical business--they will bill private insurance more because they know how much they can get away with to cover other expenses that usually have nothing to do with your care.

And while we're on the subject of sharing costs, who do you think is sharing in the cost of your daughter's care via your group plan? That's right--the other policy holders, who are your employees and others who participate in that private plan. You couldn't get her covered under COBRA, nor buy a family plan, so effectively, you've passed her very expensive care on to those with whom share your plan. There are plenty of individuals out there--sole proprietors, freelancers, and those with pre-existing conditions who couldn't afford to do what you did. Why deny them a way to enjoy coverage? This is so similar to the nativists here who forget their forebears were once immigrants. the ignorance abounds.

J in Japan

September 10, 2009 9:58 PM

Speaking as a 3X-year-old American in Japan on their national healthcare plan I must say I dream of the healthcare coverage I had in the US:

1. My monthly premiums are double
2. My copay is nearly 4 times
3. My coverage is crap, even "basic tests" require certification of need. If I want a vaccine ($60), checkup ($200), STD screening ($400), or something not required for life I must pay for it myself. Hell Americans are used to getting treatment at a Dr. for your pimples, Japanese laugh at that!
4. Everything is done the cost effective way, in other words the slow way. They haven't even caught on to the 20 minute HIV test, instead taking weeks!
4. I must make an appointment for any visit, often WAITING A MONTH JUST TO HEAR TEST RESULTS which take 5 MINUTES with a doctor.
5. I must wait 2-3 hours until I am seen despite having an appointment made months in advance.
6. Dr's work the system in order to make a living by requiring many visits and followups.
7. Dentist are worse though as they will do one tooth a visit because otherwise they make less than hamburger flippers... SERIOUSLY! Now you know why Japanese teeth are worse than the Brits!

Its faster and (almost) cheaper to fly to Guam and get real American healthcare... It is MUCH CHEAPER AND FASTER for dental care. Japan healthcare is very substandard... The only reason why Japanese live on average so long is that they eat right and don't kill each other.

J in Japan


September 11, 2009 1:40 AM

Healthcare is a professional decision not only a mental excursion. Government cannot be allowed to shadow the true professionalism behind the choice of a true healthcare provider. There are few details offered to provide guidance for the ones in need, however there is a difference between plants with thorns, and the medicinal values they may contain. I see throught the lines and between the trees of the forest to the truth which was lost along the way. Healthcare is just like everything else in this world. A price has been placed upon cost for the true professionals to practice, and thus room for the lesser to practice has been created. Goverment will only subdue the opportunity to find and locate the best care providers. This world has rules, just as with the best fruits to eat, and vegetables to consume it takes much effort to locate, cultivate, and procure them for our needs. The government will crush the playing field by forcing the pack to follow, without any options, while sending their personal families to higher level professionals known for their level of skill. Unfortunately I have been shown the light from the darkness in this situation, though I knew where the light was all the time! I have had brain surgery twice, and witnessed malpractice and unethical decisions at lower levels of the totem pole of life. There are practicioners practicing for your sake not their own, I am not certain how many exist today, however I know some personaly. This is my statment in respect to the ones who care, when you truely need someone to care!


September 11, 2009 9:01 AM

Reform needs to include changes from many different directions. Health providers, Insurance companies and government. There are a few very simple ideas that would turn the program in a positive direction but for some reason, beyond my understanding, they do not talk about them at length.

1. Provide tort reform. Use arbitration to settle malpractice issues. This will reduce a major cost for doctors although it will also reduce the number of attorney's getting large checks. Dr's will still be responsible for their actions.

2. Extend patents to 25 years on drugs and require drug companies to price the perscriptions at generic levels. This allows the drug company adequate time to make profits and use them for R & D.

3. fully fund medicare coverage. We are all paying more for care because medicare does not pay doctors or hospitals a fraction of the actual cost.

4. Mandate universal health care. I would really like to know the true number of uninsured Americans that actually have access to coverage but choose not to buy it because their employer asks tham to share in some of the cost. Or the young and healthy folks that choose not to buy it because they are "indestructible." If everyone contributed a smaller amount of money the cost will level out. It is the true meaning of insurance (Spreading risk over a large pool of people) A very simple copncept.

5. Open up competitiion across State lines. This one kills me. This country is built on competition but we allow these mini monopolies. Why can't an insurance company in Iowa offer a health quote to someone in Ohio?

Just some simple things that would make a world of difference but as always our politicians wnat to reinvent the wheel and who the hell cares it not their money anyway. They will always have their Federal helath Plan that is the Cadillac product and it is not Government run it is managed by private insurance companies!!!


September 15, 2009 4:05 PM

The Insurance problem is layered over a larger problem. That is the problem of thr giant mergers that have removed competition from the markrtplace. One of the pillars of capitalism is many suppliers. That is eroding. Japan has a business model of giant companies and small companies. The result was a 10 depression in the 90's. Also, the directors who approve the big salaries in these giant companies have not served the stock holder well. The amount of money going to executive compensation belongs to the stock holder not the execs. Government regulation and oversight has been largely ineffecive and often times, damaging. Break up big companies and create better competition, have Congress get out of the Regulation business and content itself with it's tasks outlined in the Consitution instead of reading "Between the lines."
We all was what happened when Congress and the President ran the Vietnam War. That is what is happening in Housing, Medical and Teaching.
There will always be crooks in all areas of life. We need to deal with them (harshly) instead of burdening the rest of us.


September 17, 2009 10:07 AM

For once, Obama is right- Watch video
The public option, stimulus for the politically connected, and green jobs are only some of the tools Obama is using to carry out his master plan. People and businesses have figured out what his plan is and are scared to death of him. Read the following and you will see why the Obama stimulus is not stimulating and why the economy will not start bouncing back until after the 2010 election. And that is only if his master plan fails.


September 27, 2009 5:00 PM



December 2, 2009 1:51 PM

The way the health insurance industry is set up in today's America, the "industry" insures our health only as long as it is productive. By this I mean profitable... Paying premiums and deductibles. Our health is wrested from us, made into an external object, with which to draw enormous profit, not for us, but for those who control the "industry." It is literally "alienated" from us having undergone the transformation from something intrinsic to an external product. The health that is insured, however, is not the whole of our health, from good to bad, but only that part that is productive. Only that part that makes profit. Only that part that makes health insurance providers money.
The word "industry" itself indeed perfect in describing our current insurance system. The word itself propagates the idea that our health is capital, curiously not our own, but to be traded as shares on Wall Street. Your health is the capital with which the industry itself becomes filthy, stinking, rich. The recent revelation of the outlandish salaries of the insurance companies' executives reflects that. When your health is no longer profitable the insurance industry will find a way to uninsure you. Somehow, we feel deep down that this is not right. That our health is not a commodity. That is why there is a great outrage by so called 'socialists'. Our health maybe insured, but we are not. As soon as we are not able to produce profitable health (by that i mean sick), we are no longer insurable. And why not? Because we are no longer the owner of our health. The insurance companies are (death panels). Those that profit from owning our health are. Hence, the healthier we are, the less ownership we have of our health. This is the Marxian dialectic at work.
It is time to fundamentally rethink the structure of health care. First of all, we need to move away from the notion that our health is something to be insured by an "industry." The notion that it is any part of an industry is fundamentally wrong. The label "Health insurance industry" itself is a misnomer. Health is not a commodity. It cannot and should not be commodified but it is. Our health should not be used for profit.
We need to take back the ownership of our health. Let's bring the care into "health care" instead of giving it to an "industry." Our lives depend on it.

Adam W.

January 29, 2010 9:13 AM

As a small business owner with 15 employees, I'm scared of Obamacare. If I have to offer healthcare to all my employees or pay a penalty, I will be forced to make layoffs. What Obama doesn't understand is that his plan will increase the unemployment rate. As it is I have to jump through hoops to get anything from the government. This plan will make ten times harder. Fix Medicare, and stop letting illegal immigrants get free healthcare. In NY, i know atleast five illegals that had a baby in a local university and didn't pay a cent.

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What's it like to run your own company today? Entrepreneurs face multiple hurdles new and old, from raising capital and managing employees to keeping up with technology and competing in a global marketplace. In this blog, the Small Business channel's John Tozzi and Nick Leiber discuss the news, trends, and ideas that matter to small business owners. Follow them on Twitter @newentrepreneur.

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