Small businesses want Congress to lower health costs, but fear it ‘will do nothing,’ survey says

By: - October 20, 2022 1:00 pm

23% of those surveyed feared lawmakers will “go too far,” and 25% worry lawmakers “will not go far enough.” (Getty Images)

Ahead of the November elections, nearly 80% of small business owners want federal lawmakers to help lower the costs of health care, according to a national survey of 1,209 business owners.

And more than half of those surveyed expect to be disappointed.

“The cost of health coverage has real-world consequences for small businesses that affect our entire economy,” said Shaundell Newsome, the owner of Sumnu Marketing in Las Vegas and the chair of the Las Vegas Urban Chamber of Commerce. Rising health costs mean increasing costs for consumers or covering less of the costs of health insurance for employees, Newsome said.

Small Business for America’s Future, a nationwide coalition of small business owners and leaders, conducted the survey and found that 40% of small business owners who responded said they didn’t offer health insurance. Nearly 80% of them cited high costs as the reason why.

The vast majority of respondents (95%) said they saw the cost of health insurance increase over the last four years.

The bulk of businesses in Nevada (99.2%) are classified as small businesses by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) 2019 report, which defines small businesses as firms with fewer than 500 employees. The firms employ 42% of Nevadans. 

“We know more about what’s going on in our employees’ lives. We know if their kids are sick, we know if they are taking care of their elderly parents or grandparents,” Newsome, who is also the co-chair of Small Business for America’s Future, said. “We have a closer view of what’s going on with our employees.”

The 1,209 small business owners responding to the poll, which was conducted by Survey Monkey, said that the primary factors responsible for the rising costs of providing health care include health insurance carriers, pharmaceutical companies and government inaction.

About a quarter of those surveyed said they feared any action by lawmakers on health care costs would “go too far.” Another fourth of the respondents said they worried lawmakers “will not go far enough.”

And more than half – 52% – said they’re concerned federal lawmakers “will do nothing” to address health care costs. 

Government inaction respondents cited includes not holding states accountable for offering programs that could benefit small business owners, Newsome said.

One of the suggestions that he thinks Nevada could improve upon is offering the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which are health insurance plans for employers with 1-50 employees that include essential services like preventive care, dental and prescription drugs, through the marketplace. 

While the state previously offered SHOP, its health insurance carriers stopped the services in 2022

SHOP would allow small businesses to come together to lower costs, Newsome said.

But there are the additional costs that come with seeking medical care. 

“One of my employees had to get some medicine for their baby, who had an ear infection,” he said. “There’s still that cost of just buying that prescription … and the process of taking them to the doctor.” 

That cost includes taking time off of work, along with co-pays for doctor visits and follow-up care — all additional expenses that most Nevadans struggle to pay.

Other policy solutions supported by small business owners surveyed include requiring hospitals to disclose their negotiated payment rates to employers and the public, cap out-of-pocket expenses and adopt policies that eliminate anti-competitive behaviors that extend to drug companies.

The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress earlier this year includes several health provisions, including allowing Medicare to lower prices by negotiating directly with drug companies, and continuing enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies that were passed under the American Rescue Plan in 2021.

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Camalot Todd
Camalot Todd

An award-winning, investigative and enterprise reporter, Camalot Todd has over seven years experience in print, digital, radio and TV journalism. She covered mental and behavioral health in New York for Spectrum News 1 Buffalo through the national service program, Report For America, where she won the Mental Health Advocates of WNY Advocacy Award in 2020 for her coverage on mental health stigma. She also served as an inaugural member of the Report For America Corps Advisory Board Member, 2021-2022. Previously, she reported on community issues in Las Vegas, including a long-term project on underage sex trafficking, for the Las Vegas Sun and its sister publication, Las Vegas Weekly. For the Sun, she wrote a pathbreaking investigative piece called, “Children on the Cusp: The transition from foster care to adulthood is leaving some behind.” The piece won the Nevada Press Association best investigative story of the year and named Camalot the Best Community Reporter of 2017. She also worked as a reporter for KUNV radio and is a graduate of University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Camalot was selected for National Press Foundation Opioid and Addiction Fellow 2021 and led the Syracuse Press Club's Journalism Lab as an educator from 2021-2022.

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