I love owning a small business, but it’s not without its challenges. Finding affordable health care is one of those challenges.
My wife and I had a new baby at the same time we were starting our own business, so health care coverage was essential. If we hadn’t had access to affordable coverage through Minnesota Care, one of us would have had to maintain other full-time employment with health-care benefits and our business would have never gotten off the ground.
Now President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are pushing through a plan that would take health care away from 23 million people – including many of the 4 million newly insured small business owners, employees, and self-employed entrepreneurs like my wife and me. Instead of improving access and lowering costs, the GOP plan puts health care out of reach for many working families across Minnesota, and the House version jeopardizes protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The plan (details of the Senate version have just been released) also slashes Medicaid by $834 billion, threatening the health care of 74 million Americans who rely on Medicaid every day and creating huge deficits in state budgets.
Bad for the economy
Through these drastic cuts to Medicaid and to the tax credits that make buying coverage affordable, the repeal plan would cause premiums to skyrocket and possibly trigger the collapse of the private market. The plan would give $664 billion in tax cuts to the very wealthy and big corporations while forcing Minnesota small business owners back to a time when many of us couldn’t afford coverage at all.
What’s bad for consumers and local businesses is bad for the economy. Any economist will tell you that when people have more money in their pockets, they can spend more at local businesses.
When small businesses struggle to keep their doors open, there are fewer jobs for Minnesotans. And when a single illness or medical emergency can bankrupt a family, that family won’t be shopping at our small businesses or contributing to a robust economy.
The Republican repeal plan is only part of the problem. At the same time, Trump and the Republicans in Congress are actively sabotaging the ACA marketplaces, where about 200,000 Minnesotans are getting their coverage. One of the GOP’s tactics is threatening to hold back payments that lower out-of-pocket costs for consumers. Without these payments, fewer people will be able to afford coverage. With fewer customers, insurance companies might abandon many of the markets, especially in rural areas, or hike premiums.
Plan even includes an ‘age tax’
Does the ACA need some improvements? Of course. But we shouldn’t scrap what’s working for a new plan that increases costs, allows insurance companies to charge more for people with pre-existing conditions, and gives tax breaks to the wealthy and insurance and drug companies. The Republican House plan even includes an “age tax” that lets insurers charge older consumers five times more than younger ones!
Our leaders should be building on what works – not sabotaging progress for Minnesotans to score political points. House Republicans like Erik Paulsen have the opportunity to take a stand for Minnesotans and small businesses by rejecting the health care plan that President Trump and congressional Republicans have proposed.
A thriving health care market means I have a real choice. I can afford quality insurance to keep my family healthy and my business thriving. And like millions of newly insured Americans, I’m not interested in going backward.
Todd Mikkelson is the owner of “SprayRack.com” in Orono. He visited his congressman, Rep. Eric Paulsen’s office in December to urge him to not vote for repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
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