The Trump administration is simultaneously working to end the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and advance a proposal that would help lower drug prices, which is like taking one step forward and eight steps back in terms of containing health-care costs.
Unfortunately, the administration’s missteps would be particularly damaging to the millions of small businesses, their employees and self-employed individuals who depend on the ACA.
Among President Trump’s most consistent policy positions is his desire to destroy the ACA at any cost. Although the effort to repeal the law famously flamed out in 2017, the president and his allies haven’t given up.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a brief in support of a federal judge’s decision in Texas v. United States. In that ongoing case, a group of state attorneys general claimed the entire ACA should be struck down because the ACA’s individual mandate no longer exists.
A federal district court judge agreed, and it seems the administration is hoping to use this lawsuit to achieve what it could not through Congress: ending the ACA.
America’s entrepreneurs will let lawyers debate the merits of Texas v. United States. The only thing that matters to small-business owners is whether or not they will continue to have access to quality, affordable health insurance. If the ACA is no more, they will not.
As Small Business Majority noted in an amicus brief filed in Texas v. United States, the ACA has provided quality, affordable health coverage to numerous small firms and entrepreneurs that once struggled to access health insurance.
Prior to the enactment of the health-care law, small businesses and their employees represented a disproportionate share of uninsured workers, and small-business owners paid 18-percent more on average for coverage than their big-business counterparts.
Since 2010, however, the growth in small-business health-care costs slowed dramatically, following regular double-digit increases prior to the law’s enactment. What’s more, small businesses are a core customer for plans purchased through ACA marketplaces.
In fact, 5.7 million small-business employees or self-employed workers are enrolled in the ACA marketplaces, and more than half of all ACA marketplace enrollees nationwide are small-business owners, self-employed individuals or small-business employees.
Ending the ACA would be an unmitigated disaster for America’s entrepreneurs: It would cause a rapid rise in healthcare costs and create substantial economic instability. Fortunately, some lawmakers recognize this threat and instead of trying to destroy the health-care law are working to reinforce it.
Recently, a group of lawmakers introduced legislation that is an attempt to lower health-care costs and offer a safety net for people with pre-existing conditions. The proposal would also block short-term insurance plans, which the administration said can now last up to 364 days and be renewed for up to three years.
These plans do not have to comply with ACA requirements and cover almost nothing, including pre-existing conditions.
Ultimately, everyone, including small-business owners, would benefit from lower drug prices. We hope the administration is successful in making that aspect of health care more affordable for everyone. But doing so while also trying to end the ACA would be putting a bandaid on a self-inflicted, gaping wound.
The administration must admit repealing the ACA is bad for our economy, shift course and work in a bipartisan manner to reduce the cost of doing business for our nation’s small firms by supporting rather than harming the ACA.
John Arensmeyer is the founder & CEO of Small Business Majority.