On Wednesday, July 29, U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu (D-LA) joined Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) at a press conference to discuss the effects skyrocketing health care costs are having on small businesses. Terry Gardiner of the Small Business Majority and Mark Derbyshire, owner of Park Moving and Storage in Maryland, also joined the senators in emphasizing the need to ensure that the concerns of small businesses are a key focus in health care reform.
"As chair of the Senate Small Business Committee, I have heard one primary concern over and over again from small businesses -- health care costs are spiraling out of control and they are hurting our small firms," Sen. Landrieu said. "Because of skyrocketing premiums, when owners are faced with the choice of cutting employees or cutting health insurance, the insurance is the first to go. This hurts small businesses' ability to compete with big businesses for top talent and affects their bottom line."
Landrieu stressed that skyrocketing premiums are crushing small businesses as they face yearly premium increases of as much as 20 percent for the past four years. Without action, Landrieu warned, millions more jobs will be lost, and in the next 15 years, $5.5 trillion more a year will be spent on health care.
Sen. Landrieu stressed the need for:
- An effective insurance exchange system to give small business employees more choices and stability for less money;
- Tax equity, including a tax credit for businesses that provide insurance to help ease the burden;
- And, insurance mandates that don't penalize small firms that want to provide health insurance but can't.
"Our small businesses need a quality, affordable health insurance option, stable costs, secure choices and an organized marketplace that works for everyone," Landrieu noted. "While we have made some progress, there is still more work to do as we take an appropriate pause. I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to improve existing proposals to ensure the right kind of reform for our small businesses."
President Obama has made the health care concerns of small businesses a major focus recently with two town hall meetings on the subject on Wednesday, July 29, and the release of a small business and health care report last Saturday.