The View From Your Obamacare: Small Business Owners

The thread continues:

I still cannot understand how the advocates of Obamacare have failed to use one of the strongest President Obama Visits Boston To Talk About Health Careconservative arguments for the program: the elimination of one of the principal roadblocks that innovative Americans face in starting their own businesses.

My wife is an instructive example.  She’s a medical writer who edits journal articles and consults on New Drug Applications for experimental new drugs.  She’s been the project lead for the approval of several new drugs that you’ve probably heard of.  When she went into business for herself at age 45, you couldn’t have named a better example of the can-do spirit that the GOP claims to support.

But she has high blood pressure and a child with autism.  Neither of these conditions has had any significant effect on our healthcare costs, but BOTH of them are considered pre-existing conditions. Without the healthcare coverage I have from my full-time job, she literally could not have obtained coverage at all.  This isn’t idle speculation on my part; I considered starting a full-time business of my own a few years ago but found that it was simply impossible to obtain insurance.

Why on earth isn’t there some Democrat somewhere shouting this pro-business message from the rooftops?

Several more readers share their stories:

I just read your piece on the meep meep that is Obamacare and I am surprised that I haven’t heard more about how it is helping small business owners like the two of us.

I left my job with benefits several years ago and started my own psychology practice, enabled in part by my wife’s insurance through her job at Duke. She was overworked and underpaid, but they provided us with good health insurance, so she stayed. At the beginning of this year, she was finally able to leave to start her own private practice. Now she is her own boss making more money and we are much happier all around. We chose to continue with her previous policy because it is slightly cheaper but could have easily gone on the marketplace and found a comparable policy. And we will in 18 months when COBRA runs out.

But the real boon had been to my employees (I am fortunate to have two wonderful colleagues who work with me). While the small business policies with only three employees were cost prohibitive, the individual policies are not. So they get good health coverage and an extra little bit in their checks each month that I contribute to cover some of their costs. It costs my company a little extra a month but I’m happy to pay it. They save about $400/month each on top of that. I’m in the process of hiring another well-qualified psychologist. She can afford to work for a small business because she can get affordable health coverage and I can provide a benefit to hire the best qualified candidate.

I can afford the types of employee retention policies that I have implemented because of Obamacare. My employees get good health coverage. And I can keep growing my business attracting the best clinicians from the likes of Duke and UNC. Best of all, our patients can also afford good coverage and will get good care. It’s a win-win all around.

If the Republicans really cared about small business owners, they would be supporting this law. Surely there are some left? I know the answer to that question and it’s unfortunate. Maybe in a couple election cycles the GOP will come wake up – if they’re still around.


My brother is 62 and the owner of a small garden center that employs about six people.  It’s a seasonal (April thru November) business that is subject to the whims of Maine’s weather.  Some years he can cover expenses and turn a small profit; other years it’s touch-and-go. As a result, he never felt like he could afford health insurance. Luckily, his health has been good and regular check-ups were paid for out-of-pocket. But a catastrophic injury or illness probably would have spelled bankruptcy, the end of his business, and the loss of those jobs.

ACA made it affordable for him to buy health insurance this spring. Now he is not at risk of losing his business because of injury or illness.  A small business, the kind that Republicans supposedly hold so dear, has been made just a little more secure and stable precisely because of Obamacare. Shouldn’t this be something the GOP is 100% behind?  Meep meep indeed.

A less straightforward story:

I run a small business with few dozen employees in California, Michigan and Washington. We cover 100% of employee health insurance premiums. We have always had robust plans with low deductibles. I did not think that we would be affected at all by ACA.

However, in December our insurance brokers called asking if we wanted to renew our group health insurance with the same provider for one more year at the same rate, or risk paying more when our insurance policy expired in June. There was a vague warning that under ACA our insurance rates may go up dramatically. But the catch was we wouldn’t be able to tell what the new rates/plans were until sometime in March. We had to make that decision to renew in December with incomplete information. I wasn’t entirely happy with our current insurance provider and wanted to shop around. I also didn’t really believe the hype that our rates were going to be rising, so I decided I’d rather shop around new plans when they became available.

It turns out the ACA did shake up the market for small group insurance. Anthem, our current provider, eliminated their low deductible plans for small businesses. The closest similar plan through them called for a 300% increase in deductibles. This came at an 8% savings to our company over the previous year. However, I didn’t think this savings at the expense the employees would do much for morale.

After viewing a large number of options, we decided to go with Blue Shield, which has a zero deductible plan with better coverage than our previous plan. The cost of the new plan is about 9% more than we were paying in the previous year. This increase was acceptable to me and is less than our insurance costs had increased in previous years for lower coverage.

I am happy with paying a little bit more for our new insurance. Our employees are happy to be paying a bit less. It is true, as the Republicans warned, that we didn’t have the opportunity to keep our previous insurance. But being forced to look at different vendors allowed us to buy something that was of better value. Overall, I think the ACA has been a net positive for this small business.

(Photo by Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)