by Laurie Ehlbeck
Just a few months ago, President Obama signed the healthcare bill into law, amidst much fanfare in Washington. But in Trenton, we’re hearing a different tune from small business owners. They’re asking: How much is this going to cost me, how can I opt out, isn’t there any way to stop this from taking effect?
What’s heartbreaking is that these are the very business owners who have been begging for real reforms – those that lower costs, give more choice and don’t burden them with more tax increases and regulations.
The feedback from small business owners is clear – they want the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization, to do something. That’s why we’ve joined 20 states in the federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the recently passed healthcare law.
But some supporters of the healthcare law in the New Jersey Legislature want to tie the hands of Gov. Christie from supporting those efforts. A recently introduced Senate resolution urges Gov. Christie to not join any lawsuit against the healthcare law. NFIB/New Jersey believes that resolving to urge the governor’s support in any way of this ill-conceived and unconstitutional federal law would betray the public trust and hinder his ability to act independently of New Jersey’s Legislature.
Plainly and simply, the federal government has gone too far with this law, directly infringing on small business owners’ abilities to manage the day-to-day operations of their businesses. The individual and employer mandates, combined with the onslaught of new taxes, paperwork requirements and new rules, will dramatically increase the cost of starting and running a small business. And while there are a few provisions that may benefit a limited number of small businesses, the overall effect of the law will do much more harm to small businesses than good.
What’s more, the law directly violates the Constitution. We don’t consider the Constitution an inconvenience. Expanding coverage by chipping away at the freedoms afforded to individuals and small business owners in the Constitution is unacceptable.
At the core of the lawsuit is the requirement that all individuals purchase qualified healthcare or face a fine. Forcing individuals to purchase something simply because they are alive is unprecedented, and we believe ultimately unconstitutional. The military’s draft is the only exception to this, and Congress’ authority to enact the draft is explicitly provided for in the Constitution, unlike this mandate.
What scares small businesses the most is the thought that if Congress can regulate this type of inactivity, then there are essentially no limits on what they can require individuals and businesses to do. If there are no limits, who’s to say Congress can’t pass a law forcing individuals to join a gym or face a fine? Aspiring for a healthier society is a worthy goal, but do we want the federal government mandating diets, exercise regimens, vitamins and supplement intake?
In addition to violating the Constitution, this law does little to address small business owners’ No. 1 problem – skyrocketing healthcare costs. A nonpartisan CBO analysis found that health insurance premiums on individuals will increase an average of 10 to13 percent per person due to provisions in the new law.
We want to make it very clear: NFIB has a long history of working on and supporting healthcare reform. We are not part of the “Just say no” crowd. Small businesses DO need reforms that help to reduce costs and increase choices. We have encouraged reforms that cover pre-existing conditions, help to create effective and affordable national exchanges, provide the ability to buy across state lines, and include liability reform. But this new law resulted in more bad than good for our nation’s job creators. And this law is a bridge too far in terms of the future of our constitutional freedoms and liberties.
Small business owners across the nation deserved better, which is why NFIB is committed to doing everything in our power to protect the rights of small business owners by fighting to overturn this unconstitutional law. The healthcare bill is bad for small business and bad for the people of New Jersey.
Laurie Ehlbeck is state director for the National Federation of Independent Business/New Jersey.