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Op-Ed: Health Care, Small Business, And You


Location: Washington, DC

In the very near future, Congress will debate in earnest a health care bill which will have major impacts on nearly every industry throughout our economy, especially our nation's small businesses.

Small businesses today represent 99 percent of all businesses in our country and provide a source of income for roughly half of the U.S. workforce. They have created more than 70 percent of the American jobs and are - quite frankly - the lifeblood of our economy.

Earlier this week, President Obama announced several initiatives his Administration designed to boost credit for small businesses - specifically using a portion of the Wall Street bailout to support additional loans to small businesses.

I can certainly understand the intention of this announcement - to create more jobs. Jobs are needed desperately because in the last year alone this economy has lost an average of 376,000 jobs a month.

Nebraska has been more fortunate than most states, but our employers are still feeling the economic pinch. I have had the chance to hear firsthand from small business owners both when back in Nebraska and through my small business and entrepreneur advisory committee and they are concerned.

Across the country companies - large and small - are putting off creating new jobs and filling empty positions amid this economic uncertainty. The potential costs of health care and cap and trade legislation which could drive up operating costs are very real hurdles small business owners must take into account.

It is painfully ironic, then, that the House version of the health care bill (H.R. 3200) imposes $208 billion in taxes on businesses which cannot afford to finance their workers' health coverage, costing our economy as many as 5.5 million jobs. The Congressional Budget Office has stated this tax on jobs likely will reduce hiring and also could lead to wage stagnation as compensation is diverted to comply with new federal taxes and mandates.

We must not push through a health care bill which hits small businesses with billions of dollars in new taxes. This costly government takeover of health care is already harming the confidence of the nation's small business owners and costing our economy good-paying jobs - before being passed by a single chamber of Congress.

In addition to the tax on jobs, H.R. 3200 includes a $544 billion ‘surtax' on small businesses, punishing workers, employers, and families and leading to even further job losses.

We all agree something has to be done to address the health care challenges facing American families. At the same time we must address the economic challenges facing our nation's small businesses. We must do both, however, in a reasonable and responsible manner.

I support better solutions, including enacting genuine legal reform which cuts down frivolous lawsuits, and passing bills which give small businesses the freedom to join together to get health insurance at lower rates and to shop across state lines for insurance in order to find the best deal - similar to options already available to most large businesses and federal workers. We also should promote wellness and expanded health savings accounts to provide additional flexibility to small businesses.

Small businesses need Congress to enact legislation which helps them create jobs and provide quality, affordable health care for their employees.

Small business - not government - is the engine of job creation. Passing a government takeover of health care with massive new taxes on small businesses is the wrong plan at the worst possible time.

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