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Small Businesses Could Win Big in House Health Reform Bill

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, July 23, 2009

Small businesses–particularly those with 10 employees or fewer—stand to be the big winners if a public health insurance option like the one now before the House of Representatives becomes a reality, according to a new issue brief by the Economic Policy Institute.

The study, Health Care Reform, Big Benefits for Small Businesses estimates that small businesses with 10 or fewer employees could save about $3,500 per worker annually under a public plan similar to the House Tri-Committee's proposal.

Elise Gould, the director of health policy research at EPI, and one of three authors of the issue brief, says the findings shouldn't be surprising. "Small businesses bear a heavy burden in the current failing healthcare system," Gould says. "Small businesses and their employees pay higher prices for less coverage. They are often priced out of the private market completely and, when that happens, it puts them at a great disadvantage when it comes to hiring and retaining employees."

The EPI brief compares the House bill to a similar plan called Health Care for America, which was drafted under EPI's Agenda for Shared Prosperity program. Both the House bill and the EPI plan create a new public insurance option and a requirement that employers offer affordable coverage to their workers or pay to defray the costs of enrolling in a national insurance marketplace.

"The gains to small business are likely to be even greater under the House version of the healthcare reform bill, as it is even more generous to small business," says Josh Bivens, an EPI economist, and a coauthor of the brief.

Employer-sponsored insurance is the primary source of health insurance for non-elderly Americans, covering nearly 63% of adult Americans. ESI premiums of $532 billion in 2008 accounted for nearly one-quarter of all non-Medicare healthcare spending in the United States that year.

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