Pushing the economic case for reform

PUSHING THE ECONOMIC CASE FOR REFORM…. We talked last week about some of the economic consequences of our dysfunctional health care system. For example, many employers, especially small businesses, have no choice but to force employees to pay higher premiums, and many more are dropping coverage altogether.

But this is especially damaging for American entrepreneurs — small businesses can’t open because entrepreneurs can’t afford to give up the benefits that come with their current job, and/or they can’t afford to cover a new team of employees. It forces some to leave the country, and start businesses overseas. It’s a subject we’ve been following closely here at the Monthly.

As the fight over health care reform enters the next stage, it’s a point the White House is choosing to emphasize even more. Today, President Obama talked up this angle in his weekly address, highlighting “people who’ve got a good idea, and the expertise and determination to build it into a thriving business, but many can’t take that leap because they can’t afford to lose the health insurance they have at their current job.”

“I hear about it from small business owners who want to grow their companies and hire more people, but they can’t, because they can barely afford to insure the employees they have,” the president said. “One small business owner wrote to me that health care costs are — and I quote — ‘stifling my business growth.’ He said that the money he wanted to use for research and development, and to expand his operations, has instead been ‘thrown into the pocket of healthcare insurance carriers.’

“These small businesses are the mom and pop stores and restaurants, beauty shops and construction companies that support families and sustain communities…. And right now, they are paying up to 18 percent more for the very same insurance plans as larger businesses because they have higher administrative costs and less bargaining power. Many have been forced to cut benefits or drop coverage. Some have shed jobs or shut their doors entirely. And recent studies show that if we fail to act now, employers will pay six percent more to insure their employees next year – and more than twice as much over the next decade.”

“Rising health care costs are undermining our businesses, exploding our deficits, and costing our nation more jobs with each passing month.

“So we know that reforming our health insurance system will be a critical step in rebuilding our economy so that our entrepreneurs can pursue the American Dream again, and our small businesses can grow and expand and create new jobs again.”

The standard GOP talking points against reform insist that changing the system would punish small businesses. We already know that’s wrong, and I’m glad to see the White House emphasizing the opposite point.

Health care reform obviously won’t create an economic utopia overnight, but it’s the key part of an economic strategy that creates jobs, expands business opportunities, puts American employers in a more competitive position internationally, and opens the door to entrepreneurs who would otherwise struggle to get off the ground.