Small businesses are the engine of our economy. Mississippi’s 216,700 small businesses employ more than half of our non-farm workforce. Nationwide, they create 60 to 80 percent of new jobs. Healthcare reform has large implications for the ability of small businesses to stay afloat during today’s tough times, and both employers and workers have a huge stake in upcoming legislation.
Lack of affordable care is one of the major reasons why many small businesses are being forced to cut jobs or close down. As the reform debate continues to heat up, it is essential that lawmakers address the healthcare challenges that are specific to small businesses. Both the survival of these businesses and the ability of hard-working Mississippians to keep their jobs depend on it.
Along with my fellow members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition and Blue Dog Health Care Task Force, I have signed on to healthcare reform principles that will help reduce high costs for small businesses. The primary source of healthcare coverage for 158 million Americans is through the employer-based system, but small businesses are struggling to meet soaring costs. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. While 16 percent of Americans are uninsured, 28.7 percent of individuals working for small businesses are without coverage because employers simply cannot afford it.
The Blue Dog principles call for the inclusion of a targeted tax credit for small businesses to use toward the cost of providing healthcare coverage for their employees, improving affordability for both owners and employees. If we can make healthcare more affordable for small businesses, we can help keep them profitable and save jobs.
I am confident that a healthcare reform package will be passed later this year. In the meantime, it’s important for Congress to continue supporting initiatives that help lower costs, increase access and improve quality of care. I recently cosponsored the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Act for the second time. By offering incentives such as tax credits to small business owners and self-employed individuals, as well as the option for small businesses to form statewide or nationwide purchasing pools, the act provides ways for these businesses to decrease costs and increase the accessibility of quality coverage. I urge Congress to bring this legislation to the floor in a timely manner.
The bottom line: small businesses are the backbone of our local economies, and costly healthcare should not be a determining factor in whether they survive or fail. Communities depend on small businesses for economic development and families depend on them for the availability of good-paying jobs.
While back home at the end of last month, I toured the district to find out what constituents were most concerned about in the face of upcoming healthcare reform. I look forward to taking what local small businesses had to say back to Washington to ensure that their interests are protected during this important debate.
As always, please continue to keep me informed about your opinions and concerns by phone at (202) 225-4306 or by visiting my web site at www.childers.house.gov.
Congressman Travis Childers, who serves the First District of Mississippi in the U.S. House of Representatives, contributed this Op-Ed column for the Mississippi Business Journal. For a public official or newsmaker to contribute an Op-Ed column, contact MBJ managing editor Ross Reily at email@example.com.