The Right Tools To Fix Health Care

NJBIZ — Monday, May 18, 2009

Letters to the Editor

I may not be a policy expert on health care, but I deal with broken health care policies every day in my business. When I first began offering health care to my employees, it cost about 5 percent of payroll to provide full coverage for my entire staff. Now, 20 years later, I am paying 20 percent of payroll and can only afford to cover a portion of my employees' health care premiums. As I face another rate increase of 25 percent, I am struggling to understand how anyone can say that small businesses are against real, comprehensive health care reform.

We've got to stop pretending we can escape this cost - it's a fixed cost. When responsible employers offer coverage and others don't, it creates an unlevel playing field. We'd be much better off in a system where all employers contribute a reasonable amount, instead of this game of cost-shifting. That's why I support a system of shared responsibility, where employers pitch in a fair share.

Tax credits are not the solution to this problem, and a private-market "solution" will only bring us more of the same. I would rather have real health reform that addresses costs, than a tax credit that will only be consumed by skyrocketing premiums. We don't need to fiddle with taxes or the tax code; we need policies that stabilize a health care system in critical condition.

I'm not against private insurance; but we need more options. As a cabinet maker, I think about it like this: A toolbox holds a variety of tools, each perfected to perform a task. You can't drive nails with a screwdriver or cut wood with pliers, and in my experience, when a critical tool is missing, things can get ugly. With health care, we've tried to do everything with a hammer.

The public plan option is a critical tool missing from the toolbox - the one that could stem rising costs. According to the Commonwealth Fund, reform with a public option could save employers $231 billionfrom 2010 to 2020, and $3 trillion for the nation. Without a public plan, we lose three quarters. Billions for the little guys — imagine what we could do with that.

Small businesses need relief from this crisis. We need Congress to enact health reform that works for us and our employees, this year, so we can do our part for economic recovery.

J. Kelly Conklin, owner
Foley-Waite Associates

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