Running a small business with four employees, I’ve got a lot hanging in the balance as the Supreme Court deliberates on the healthcare law. The legal challenge to the law was launched here in Florida with a small business lobby group as a plaintiff in the case. But if you’re thinking that means small business people like me want to see the law rolled back, think again.
The simple fact is, the healthcare law is saving our business serious money and saving our healthcare benefits. Rolling it back would be a real blow — it could spell the end of our healthcare benefits, and push more small business employees into bankruptcy.
I’ve spent the past 12 years at Palm Beach Groves, a small orange shipping business in South Florida. As general manager, I’ve seen our health insurance premiums increase by double-digits every year for a decade. Renewal season has always been a nerve-wracking time, as the decision to continue providing health coverage — and how much of the cost to shift onto employees — gets harder every year. Our staff hasn’t seen a raise in more than seven years because any extra income goes to pay for our rising insurance premiums.
Then along came “Obamacare.”
Last November, our health insurance agent called with our renewal: after annual increases of 12 percent, 22 percent, and even 32 percent, our premiums in 2012 would increase by a grand total of . . . 0.2 percent. Zero point two — ie, flat.
I was floored. And this flat renewal came with exactly the same plan — no dumbing down the coverage, no increase in our deductibles, everything was the same.
Then, at tax time, we qualified for the health law’s small business tax credit. This credit cut our total healthcare costs by about 10 percent, or $7,400, in 2011.
And we’re not through yet. I’m curious to see how the Affordable Care Act’s 80/20 value for premiums rule will affect our group. We might even get a rebate check from our insurance company this summer if it failed to spend the required 80 percent of premiums on actual healthcare costs. For the first time in my 12 years in this business, the healthcare picture is finally looking up for Palm Beach Groves.
Despite the benefits small businesses out in the real world are seeing from the law, the calls for the repeal of “ObamaCare” continue on. Opponents of the law say they want to replace it with something else. But the “alternatives” they offer are all talking points, no substance.
“Let health insurance companies sell across state lines.” Sounds nice in theory, until you learn that this is code for giving insurers license to sell any kind of junk insurance that likely won’t cover what you need. Besides, our neighbors in Georgia tried this last year. Not a single out-of-state insurance company showed up to the party.
Or “Health Savings Accounts,” which are supposed to make us “better,” “more informed,” and “more responsible” consumers of healthcare. Try calling a doctor’s office and ask for the price of a biopsy, or a fix for a broken leg or by-pass surgery. Good luck with that one.
We have experience with HSAs:
A few years ago, our company was forced into a high deductible HSA plan by our insurer. This meant paying the first $5,000 of healthcare costs out of pocket and then paying a high monthly premium on top of that before the health insurance company paid a dime.
That’s not a solution. It’s more of the same old squeeze.
The Affordable Care Act is working for our business. We now have free preventive well-care visits — a smart investment in our health. My daughter can stay on our plan until she turns 26. Kids can no longer be excluded because they have a pre-existing condition, and in 2014 none of us can be denied insurance or discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions.
Why would anyone want to take all this away?
The justices of the Supreme Court — who enjoy an array of healthcare choices as federal employees — hold our fate in their hands. If the court cares about small businesses — not business lobbyists, but real small businesses like ours — it should uphold the healthcare law.
We literally can’t afford to go back.
Louisa McQueeney is the CFO of Palm Beach Groves, an orange shipping business in Lantana.