Can We Put ‘Affordable’ Into the Affordable Care Act?

Pawn_Stars_shop_by_Mike_SalvucciMany of us are familiar with Rick Harrison from the hit reality TV show Pawn Stars and for years we’ve listened to him gripe about the amount of work he’s able to squeeze out of his son Corey and his employee ChumLee. But on his recent Fox & Friends visit, it was the Affordable Care Act that took his first salvo of criticism.

“It’s really difficult to do business sometimes. Just for my little pawn shop the insurance for my employees went from $19,000 to  $30,000. Last month,” Harrison explained. “I have 60-year-old women working for me who have to have pregnancy coverage now. I have some of the squarest ex-cops working for me who have to have drug rehab (coverage),” he added.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a Harvard MBA to look at those numbers and realize that they make expansion virtually impossible and workforce cutbacks almost inevitable. I’m reminded of a recent headline about Walmart cutting medical insurance coverage for employees working fewer than 30 hours per week. Earlier the retailer had cut coverage for employees working fewer than 20 hours.

Rising rates, Smallbiz pain

Rick Harrison and Walmart aren’t alone. The ACA seems to be causing a lot of pain for small business owners and individuals across the country. According to a Manhattan Institute study, the ACA increased the actual cost of health insurance by 41 percent in 2014 compared to 2013.

Looking to 2015, early data show health insurance premium rate changes varying wildly from state to state. Rate drops of as much as 22 percent to rate increases as high as 35 percent have been reported. Being able to adequately predict costs from year to year is important for small business owners. When the economic climate swings so radically, they tend to entrench themselves and put off expansion and hiring plans until stability returns.

When Federal Reserve Banks study local businesses, they are finding that the uncertainty is causing management to make major changes to their future plans. A survey in Dallas revealed that the ACA is prompting 25 percent of respondents to fire employees and nearly 17 percent say they have more part-time employees than full-timers due to the cost of required health insurance.

Ask the candidates

There are enough issues before the American public in the upcoming midterm election to make voters’ heads spin. But as you consider candidates’ positions on fighting ISIS and Ebola, don’t forget to ask how they stand on supporting small businesses.

And if you’re at a town hall meeting, see if any of your candidates would support this modest proposal: Anytime a law doesn’t live up to the name politicians have given it, the law is automatically repealed. For example, if the Affordable Care Act doesn’t make healthcare affordable, it’s gone.

I can dream, can’t I?

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Image: By Mike Salvucci (DSCN0507) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.