In the flurry of debate and news coverage coming out of Washington right now, two trends are indisputable: unemployment is rising while health care costs chew up more and more of the average family’s budget. American families, who did nothing to create these problems, are suffering the most because of them. I’m offering and pursuing solutions that address both of these disturbing trends by reining in health care costs for small businesses, which can in turn use the savings to create new jobs.
Health care costs for small businesses across the country continue to outpace the rate of inflation, and many employers are bracing for a double-digit jump in their health care spending for next year. To make matters worse, some health care reform proposals in Congress right now call for additional taxes on small businesses to pay for the overhaul of our health care system. Small business owners are hesitating to invest in new jobs, facilities and equipment because they’re worried they’ll be saddled with massive hikes in health care spending. In short, the skyrocketing cost of covering employees is combining with the current atmosphere of uncertainty to smother job growth.
This situation becomes even more dangerous in Iowa, where small businesses account for so much of our state’s economic activity. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees make up more than 95 percent of the total number of employers in Iowa, according to the Iowa Department of Economic Development. We can’t leave small businesses in the cold during the health care reform debate, not when we depend on them so heavily for innovation and job growth.
I’ve proposed legislation that would allow small businesses to pool together across state lines to negotiate for more affordable health insurance benefits with private providers. The “Health Care Security for All Americans Act of 2009,” HR 3067, gives small businesses more leverage to find affordable coverage for employees. That helps the company create jobs, and it helps the employees by providing them with lower premiums. The legislation also enhances health care access for seniors, members of the military and residents in rural states.
As national unemployment figures rise near 10 percent and health care costs continue to squeeze families, we can’t afford to poison the atmosphere for small businesses that might otherwise create jobs and invest in our communities. By enacting the reforms in my legislation, we can encourage job growth and help our economy and our families. We can’t allow small businesses to become an afterthought in the health care debate.
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