By James Thompson
(Note: The Insource Group CEO James Thompson writes that Congress should address three issues that would help businesses across the country. Today’s post focuses on healthcare.)
The new 114th Congress offers an opportunity to ease the gridlock and get something accomplished for the American people. In my view, the best way is to focus on smaller pieces of legislation that can generate enough bipartisan support to pass the House and the Senate. The last several years has shown that broad sweeping legislation is too difficult to achieve within Washington’s current political climate.
Three issues are of most interest to me and, I think, other business people: healthcare, immigration and tax reform. Today we look at healthcare.
The Affordable Healthcare Act passed in 2010, but so far nothing is affordable about it for small- and medium-sized businesses like ours. This year alone our company’s healthcare premiums will increase 18 percent. The ability to manage increases like this is limited for smaller companies, whereas larger corporations have greater resources and more available options. Due to their size, big companies can self-insure and take advantage of larger risk pools that can lower premiums. Small businesses, however, have more limited risk pools to contend with and, therefore, can be subject to higher healthcare insurance costs. This issue should be fixed as Obamacare doesn’t address it.
The fate of Obamacare may rest with the Supreme Court and its pending decision on King vs. Burwell. Oral arguments start in March with a decision expected in June. At question is whether consumers can receive premium subsidies in states that aren’t operating their own healthcare exchanges, such as Texas, and instead rely on HealthCare.gov. If the court rules that those subsidies are illegal, then it is likely that millions of Americans will not be able to afford their insurance and the Obamacare system could collapse.
While there are those who would like to see Obamacare go away, many Americans have insurance now because of it. Depriving them of healthcare coverage could have major consequences for the 2016 elections as those stranded without insurance will tend to blame the Republicans controlling Congress.
Congress needs to be ready with an alternative plan. That plan should create a more competitive healthcare insurance marketplace that has a chance of lowering costs. One option is to offer cafeteria-style benefit packages that unbundle the current comprehensive plans so consumers can select and pay for the coverage that suits their individual needs.
(The entire letter was published in the Feb. 16, 2015, issue of the Fort Worth Business Press.)