Small business group addresses health care crisis

Filed under: Health Care |

Health care should be universal, private and affordable.
Insurance should be competitive and portable, and information should be available about costs, quality and outcomes.
Those ideas to repair the health care system were unveiled earlier this month by the National Federation of Independent Business, a nonprofit association that assists small, local businesses across the country.
In its “Small Business Principles for Health Care Reform,” the group said “health care is financially unsustainable and threatens the health and financial security of the American people.”
Noting that small businesses are particularly vulnerable to “weaknesses” in health care, the group supports reforms to balance issues of access, affordability and consumer choice.

20 years of research

The culmination of more than 20 years of research, coupled with months of meetings with leading health care policy experts from across the country, led to the creation of NFIB’s principles for small-business health care reform.
The core values will guide NFIB’s development of more specific policy initiatives.
“With the presidential campaigns kicking into high gear and health care at the top of the domestic agenda, we are clearly setting the table for reform in 2009,” said Todd Stottlemyer, president and CEO of the group. “And with small business making up the largest segment of the uninsured population, it is critically important for small business to have a seat at that table.”

No quick fix

And 2009 might be the earliest anyone could see comprehensive health care reform, said Sheila Carlon, health care policy professor at Regis University.
“I think it will take a year — at least — for people to examine policy changes,” she said. “And at the federal level, it will take even longer.”
Despite the ideas floated by a number of groups, Carlon isn’t optimistic that change will occur at the federal level.
“I think the insurance companies are lobbying so heavily at that level, it will be left up to the states,” she said.
While the principles set up by the small-business group are laudable, she doesn’t believe reform will be comprehensive.

Guiding principles

NFIB released 10 principles to reform health care: universal, private, affordable, unbiased, competitive, portable, transparent, efficient, evidence-based and realistic.
The group supports universal access to care because it said that focusing on the million of uninsured Americans “distracts us from focusing on affordability, quality and comprehensiveness of care and coverage.”
The group believes insurance should be private and affordable, competitive and portable.
“Health care policy should encourage an appropriate level of spending on health care,” NFIB said. “Laws, regulation and insurance arrangements should direct health care spending to those goods and services that maximize health.”

Realistic approach

Realism comes into play with the process of reform.
“Health care reform should proceed as rapidly as possible, but not so quickly that firms and individuals cannot adjust prudently,” the report said. “It is important to assure that no one’s quality of care suffers as we move to provide coverage for all Americans. Reform is a delicate balancing act. Moving too slowly will allow costs to rise too far and too fast. In the process, the health of Americans will suffer, and the financial security of some will be disastrously impacted. But excessive speed is also risky. Thus, we must assure that reform does not allow some Americans to slip through the cracks — to lose coverage or see their costs rise too rapidly. Somewhere in between is a seamless transition from the status quo to a more efficient and equitable system.”

Outside help

NFIB has engaged The Lewin Group, which also researched Colorado’s suggested health care reform proposals, to undertake develop approaches to improve small businesses’ access to more affordable health care.
The Lewin Group’s research is designed to help NFIB better understand the available policy options and the preferences of independent businesses concerning those options.
NFIB also has created a health care advisory board comprised of small-business owners who will provide counsel and guidance.
Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.