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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Health reform law: One anniversary too many


By Dan Danner
Just when American small businesses thought things couldn’t get much worse, they’re realizing that President Obama’s health reform law has even more pain in store for them. And it’s not yet fully implemented.

One year after the law was signed, health insurance companies are “softening up” many small firms with unprecedented premium increases of 20 percent or more well in advance of deadlines that might boost prices. Even worse, many businesses are getting the rude letter from insurers that health plans the president said they could keep are being cancelled in anticipation of not meeting the law’s Cadillac standard required in 2014.

It’s not that these small-firm owners were expecting great things from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. But they did have hopes that someone in Washington, D.C. had heard their pleas over the past 25 years for affordable health coverage for themselves and their employees.

As the nation’s primary creators of new jobs, they were wishful that additional burdens would not be heaped upon them while struggling to survive in the midst of a crushing economic recession. But neither the recession nor the high unemployment rate slowed the White House from mandating costly minimum benefits or limiting health savings accounts or slipping a tax paperwork demand into the law, costing them massive amounts of time to fulfill.

The hopes of small-business owners did get a boost recently when a U.S. District judge voided the entire health reform law, ruling it unconstitutional in a lawsuit filed by the National Federation of Independent Business and more than half of U.S. states. But the White House, intent on implementing the plan despite the ruling based on inviolable principles created by America’s founders, has not only appealed the ruling but has maintained its steady pace to force all citizens to buy health coverage whether they want it or not.

The U.S. House of Representatives raised small-business optimism when it voted to repeal the whole health law. But owners are keeping a wary eye on the Senate and even if that chamber gives the measure thumbs down, they know the odds of the president agreeing to repeal his own law are slim.

Last stop? The U.S. Supreme Court.

Small-business owners are hopeful that reasoning people who have actually read and understand the Constitution of the United States will agree with the basic tenets of democracy and free enterprise and shut this business buster down before it can cause even greater damage.

Even if victorious at the high court, those who have built small businesses, created jobs, and historically added significant strength to their nation’s financial stability cannot help but be dismayed at the astronomical waste of time, money and energy President Obama’s ill-conceived health law has cost them in just one year.

So don’t expect small business to celebrate Year One in the life of President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. They’re hoping this anniversary will be its last.

-- Danner is president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington, D.C.

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