With the Supreme Court deciding today to uphold President Barack Obama’s health care law, both supporters and opponents are speaking out. One opponent is Laurie Ehlbeck, New Jersey state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). She told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the decision is “a devastating blow to small business.”
Ehlbeck said the law will increase the cost of health care for everyone, particularly small businesses. “Small businesses don’t have HR departments to take care of the increased regulatory administrative work that’s going to come with the bill and it is going to increase the cost of insurance,” she explained.
Many business owners have been worried about the new regulations, according to Ehlbeck. She said many who have been in touch with her who have 40 to 50 employees won’t make additional hires so they don’t go over the 50 employee threshold. “I believe it’s going to result in decreased jobs and businesses actually closing,” she said.
Ehlbeck said the Supreme Court decision was surprising because the law “is definitely contrary to our constitution.” She said it was particularly surprising that the court’s ruling said the mandate was like a tax. “The president has been saying all along that this is not going to be a tax on businesses and now today they’re saying their decision was that this is actually going to be a tax on businesses,” she said.
Although the Supreme Court has ruled on the issue, Ehlbeck said the NFIB isn’t done fighting. “We’re still going to work on getting the entire law to be declared unconstitutional,” she said. “We also are working on regulatory issues and legislative issues that have to do with the health care law. There’s a lot of regulatory things that are going to come about that we’re going to have a say in.”
Health insurance reform is a topic the NFIB has been working on for 30 years, according to Ehlbeck. “We believe that health insurance should be allowed to be purchased over state lines,” she said. “We’re going to look at malpractice reform. We believe that insurance should be portable. People should be able to take their insurance with them when they change employers or they become self employed. So those are some of the things that have been a priority for us that we’re going to continue to work on.”
She hopes health insurance companies will get on board with the NFIB. “I think that it’s to everybody’s benefit to have … as many people as we can be employed and we’re hoping that they’ll work with us to get the small employers in the market,” Ehlbeck said.
New Jersey business owners might be more greatly affected by the health care law than those in other states, according to Ehlbeck. “It is a unique state that employers are obligated to buy the Cadillac of insurance plans in order to insure their employees,” she said. “A mandate-free, bare bones health plan might be a good thing in New Jersey just to bring more people into the market.”