In Health Care Debate, Small Businesses Are Key
"As they work to overhaul the nation's healthcare system, President Obama and his congressional allies have pledged to help small-business owners such as Rhonda Ealy and Kelli Glasser," The Los Angeles Times reports. "Both businesswomen desperately want help. But they have strongly divergent views about what Washington should do, reflecting a broader debate about how to relieve the burden on the nation's roughly 6 million small businesses." Ealy owns a coffee roasting company in Bend, Ore. with 13 employees, she says she "loves a Democratic proposal to create a government-run insurance plan, which she hopes will allow her to get her employees better coverage for less." Glasser, who "makes museum and trade-show exhibits" and has 87 employees, "hates a separate provision in the legislation that would place a new requirement on many businesses to cover their employees."
The foundation of the Democratic plan "is a new and regulated insurance marketplace, or exchange, where individuals and small businesses -- perhaps those with fewer than 50 employees -- would be able to shop for a range of plans that meet basic standards. The standards would be established by the federal government. The exchange would feature private plans as well as a new government insurance program. Some businesses with small payrolls and low salaries also would qualify for government aid to help cover their share of employees' premiums." While offering this assistance, Democratic leaders also would advance new requirements on businesses. Under both the Democrats' House and Senate bills, "businesses above a certain size would be subject to a penalty if they did not provide employees with health benefits."
Ealy supports the plan, including an employer mandate, and "is looking forward to shopping for insurance in a new exchange." But "Glasser, whose business might be too large to qualify to buy insurance through the exchange, is more skeptical." She "fears that the government will force her to provide more generous coverage that she can't afford" (Levey, 8/5).