Big Governments Health Care Trap Door


    Health care costs to employers have so long been a grave concern it is difficult to imagine anything has been left unsaid. This year marks the fourth consecutive year of double-digit increases and it’s not the first such sequence of escalation.

    Now comes newly elected State Rep. Barb VanderVeen, R-Jension, with pronouncement that the state “House Health Policy Subcommittee on Reducing the Overall Cost of Health Care” has begun hearings on reducing health care costs. The State Representatives are not interested in hearing the myriad of complaints related to any aspect of health care, but specific recommendations to reduce the cost in seven issue areas: pharmacy, uninsured, wellness and prevention, federal issues, lawsuits, insurance and outpatient health centers.

    Small business owners —especially those in Michigan and West Michigan particularly —likely have no better representative than Small Business Association of Michigan leader and Grand Rapids accounting agency owner Paul Hense. The untiring small business advocate has provided memorable testimony to the White House Conference on Small Business for a number of years, most recently in April.

    We offer these salient points on his behalf:

    Legislators need to look in the mirror. As long as the federal and state government (big government) and big business continue to pay the big dollars for health care, the rates are then locked for the rest. Hense notes that the “threshold” is the number of willing payers at the higher (or highest possible) rate which locks the price.

    Big government does not itself have the pain of paying; the taxpayers shoulder the burden along with their own health care costs, as do Michigan employers.

    During White House hearings, Hense suggested to Treasury department officials of the Clinton administration that small business owners should be allowed under IRS laws to deduct their health care costs, just as that benefit is allowed to individual taxpayers. Hense quoted the official as saying, “You business people would abuse the privilege of being able to deduct health care by buying the best you could get.” To which Hense replied he only wanted the same health care coverage as enjoyed by the federal employee. (And he is still reeling over her use of the word “privilege.”)

    The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business Day celebration luncheon includes yet another speaker on the issue of health care and some trends among businesses to hold down costs.

    Most every business owner, especially those competing for workers in a still tight labor force, understand health care benefits are now a No. 1 employee attraction. At the rate of unrelenting increases it will not be an option, especially for small business owners. State and federal governments may then bemoan the escalating number of uninsured Americans.

    It is no wonder then that St. Mary’s Wege Institute, the Center for Complementary Health, Employee Assistance Center, HHS Health Options and others are attracting businesses from across the Midwest to a conference showcasing corporate health care alternatives and options, at significant savings. The seminar is scheduled for Sept. 21 in Grand Rapids.

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that benefits (chief among them is health insurance) now cost employers an additional 36.8 percent on top of wages.

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