Bad prescription for business

I am a small-business employer. I am very concerned about the pending health-care reform being proposed in Washington, D.C.

We have not seen the actual bill that is being presented, nor will we. Under the current Congress, bills are voted into law without adequate study, without adequate debate and without being published anywhere.

The bill is currently more than 1,000 pages. Who could read and understand this bill in time to judge it? Why should this Congress and this administration be in such a hurry to overhaul one-seventh of our economy when 70 percent of the citizens are happy with the current system?

You only have to read to page 16 to discover that you may not purchase health insurance as an individual following passage of this law. Under this bill, the Health Savings Account disappears as an option.

I have more than 40 associates working with me. Depending on your tenure with the company, I pay from 50 percent to 100 percent of the monthly health insurance premium. Some of my people are covered by their spouses' insurance from their jobs elsewhere, and they choose to have that insurance. Believe it or not, a few of our people don't want to be covered by insurance for their own reasons. I believe that is their right to decide how to spend their money.

I CONTRIBUTE TO, or pay entirely for, everybody to have dental, short-term and long-term disability insurance. I pay for a plan to help them with prescription drugs, co-pays and deductibles so that they don't get caught short on those situations. I pay them for between two and four weeks per year of vacation, pay them on holidays and even pay them to take extra time off if a loved one dies.

These benefits are my choice to do, or not do. The cost of these benefits, payroll taxes and salaries represents the majority of the cost of operating my business.

Everybody needs to know that the present health-care proposal is the biggest tax increase in the history of our country.

Business tax collections already are at record lows because business profit margins are at an all-time low. Most people I know are operating on razor-thin profits and experiencing very tight cash flow. Personal tax collections also are shrinking nationwide because about 10 percent are unemployed and about 20 percent are underemployed.

Here are the unintended consequences of a health-care proposal that requires businesses to pay for the health insurance of all their employees or pay a fine, as currently proposed:

Employers will pay the insurance, but cut salaries to make up the difference. Some will cut other benefits such as paid vacation, paid holidays, 401(k) matches or educational assistance. Some will have to raise prices to the consumers of their services and products. Some will have to cut the number of employees and increase the workloads of those who remain. Some will just shift their employees to the prescribed government coverage option. It will be the same as putting all your employees under Medicare. Some will find a way to survive by doing a little bit of all of the above. Some will be so discouraged that they will close the business, sell the business or just retire.

MY POINT IS that there is nowhere to go to find money within the small-business environment as it currently exists. Congress is full of people who have never made a payroll, created a single job, and never had to answer to an employee, a customer, a banker, or a vendor. They are fully out of touch with the reality of what it takes to succeed in our country. Regulations, taxes and restrictions on business from the federal, state and local governments are strangling our nation's job producers.

I suggest that you advise your friends, children and grandchildren to go to work for the government. Go into education or the military, or work for a government bureaucracy on some level. It is the only place I see growing over the next 50 years.

As for me, I have an irrational belief that small businesses, which employ more than half our nation's workers, are the backbone of our economy. I am addicted to free enterprise, the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution and the concept of a representative republic. I miss them.

(The writer is owner of Advanced Services for Pest Control in the CSRA.)

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