By David Steil
Healthcare is one of the number one concerns on the minds of voters. Our system is failing patients who are unable to afford treatment or medication. Our doctors drown in paperwork and administrative costs, and our workers are seeing their take home pay eaten up by healthcare costs. However, the health insurance system is not just a burden to those who try to use it, it’s also a burden on those providing it. A system that depends on businesses to be one of the primary providers of health insurance is simply not sustainable.
Our healthcare system puts a colossal burden on businesses to be one of the principal providers of healthcare. On average, eight percent of employee compensation is spent on healthcare, and that number gets dramatically higher if the businesses wish to offer family plans to those with dependents. As we’ve seen in recent news, it’s getting to be high even for multi-billion dollar companies, but it’s an even bigger problem for small and mid-sized companies.
Insurance premiums are a huge overhead cost for small business owners like myself, and their prices are only going up. According to the 2016 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average annual premium for employer-sponsored coverage for a single person household is $6,435. The cost of family coverage is almost triple that amount at $18,142. Over half of wage-earners in the United States earn under $30,000, and it isn’t hard to see why when you realize the cost of the health insurance benefit.
When the burden of health insurance falls on businesses, some are not able to manage the high costs. In 2016, only 56 percent of businesses were able to provide employer-sponsored coverage. Even worse, only 46% of small businesses had the budget for employer-sponsored health insurance, which leaves a huge portion of our workforce scrambling to cover themselves and their families on the private market.
Small business owners want their employees to have health insurance. Most of us know our employees and their families well. They are a part of our community. We depend on them staying healthy and well to keep our businesses afloat. It’s a blessing to be able to provide insurance to our employees, but it’s understandable that there are many who aren’t. The overhead costs are always unpredictable and always rising.
As a business owner, my job should be to help make sure my customer’s needs are met, my prices stay competitive, and my employees are fairly compensated. We need to invest in expanding, leading innovation, and creating new jobs. We should be enabled to operate freely in the market, and not be bogged down by the weight of our healthcare system.
The responsibility of business owners to provide insurance to their employees is putting a strain on their budgets, making it difficult to raise wages or plan for long term growth, and is leaving many people with no coverage, or coverage that’s so expensive they can’t afford to actually use it. Our healthcare system is hurting our economy and our country.
There is a solution, though. A Medicare for All system would alleviate the burden of healthcare financing from businesses and insure all Americans, at a lower cost. We spend significantly more per person on healthcare than anywhere else in the world, and yet the United States is the only developed country without some form of universal health insurance. It’s no coincidence that we’re also the only country in the world that expects our businesses to be one of the primary providers of health insurance. It’s time to free our small and mid-sized businesses from this responsibility once and for all.