By Michelle Miller
U.S. Congressman Bill Johnson stopped in Gallipolis last week to visit Fruth Pharmacy. Johnson said he is out talking to business owners and listening to their concerns about what it's going to take for them to grow, expand and hire. Johnson said he is specifically concerned about how the new healthcare law, regulations and the tax code are affecting those small businesses and what he can do as a federal representative to make it a more business friendly environment.
Johnson said he visited several Fruth Pharmacy locations, a small chain of stores that is currently expanding, to discuss these issues.
"They have a growing concern and an excellent program that's providing a good service to community," said Johnson.
On the topic of the tax code, Johnson said the code needs to be fairer and flatter across the board to afford a level playing field for all businesses.
"For so many, many years, Washington has picked winners and losers through the tax code," said Johnson. "You've got small businesses like (Fruth Pharmacy), as well as independent pharmacy owners that aren't in the same tax category and they don't get the kind of tax treatment as big, large pharmaceutical companies that can buy in huge quantities."
As Congressman, Johnson is also focusing on repealing the healthcare law and controlling regulations. Johnson said 40 percent of small businesses are saying the healthcare law alone is preventing them from expanding and hiring. In addition, regulations currently being considered by agencies like the EPA and Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation are a danger to both the coal mining industry and the steel industry, according to Johnson.
"Repealing the healthcare law and putting in patient centered solutions to our healthcare that'll lower costs and give America's seniors guaranteed coverage of their fully funded Medicare benefits and stop the $716 billion of Medicare cuts that are coming out as a result of the President's law, that's some of the things I'm trying to do," said Johnson. "Then you have a host of regulatory reforms. Regulations cost our economy today about $1.7 trillion a year and much of that compliance burden falls on the backs of small business owners. Not to mention, the onerous tax code."
On the topic of repealing the healthcare law, Johnson said healthcare reform is needed, but he supports expanded incentives for Americans to invest in health savings accounts, tort reform to lower malpractice insurance costs and putting competition back into the system.
"Let's hold the health insurance carriers accountable," said Johnson. "Let's make them compete for America's business."
Johnson said Americans should not see a major increase in insurance costs because they switch jobs or a parent chooses to stay at home to raise children, when their health hasn't changed.
"There are some things in the current healthcare law that deserve merit to be considered. One of those is preexisting conditions. I think it's a good thing that we not allow insurance providers to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions. Many Americans are in the health condition they are in, not of their own choosing. I'm sure if they had another alternative, they would not be in that situation and I don't think it's right insurance providers can deny coverage based on those preexisting conditions," said Johnson. "I also think it's a good thing that young people today can stay on their parent's insurance policies until they are age 26. Now, it should not be mandated that they have to stay on there, but it ought to be a choice that families can make, because in today's economy, where you have 50 percent of our college graduates that are either unemployed or underemployed, many of these young people need some additional help to get out on their own."
Johnson said he is also concerned about outsourcing of jobs, and said, in many cases it's a matter of survival for American businesses.
"We don't manage our trade properly and we don't give our businesses here in America a competitive advantage because we over regulate them and overtax them," said Johnson.
Johnson said his office will continue visiting businesses throughout his district to hear their concerns.
"We'll continue that outreach, because talking to my constituents, listening to their concerns, that's what these visits are all about," said Johnson.