SCARBOROUGH – As a small-business owner, I have seen a great deal of change over the past decade. both here in Maine and nationally. We have experienced prosperous years and years of recession, as well as changes in the governor’s office and in the White House.
Unfortunately, one change that has become increasingly challenging for our family-owned and -operated company — Maine Indoor Karting — is the rising cost of doing business.
The spiraling cost of health care not only depresses overall disposable income, resulting in fewer customers visiting our company, but also directly affects how we run our business. With the Affordable Care Act a mere months from implementation in January, I am concerned for the future.
I am especially troubled by the health insurance tax. The health insurance tax was included in the Affordable Care Act to raise revenue to pay for these reforms by taxing health insurance plans bought on the fully insured marketplace.
But nearly 88 percent of American small businesses purchase coverage through this marketplace — meaning that this new tax will be passed directly on to small-business owners and their employees. In Maine, this will affect our nearly 150,000 small businesses and the nearly 500,000 workers we employ.
Here at Maine Indoor Karting, this means I will not be able to have a health care plan for our employees. Why? We simply cannot afford the cost of paying health care premiums for our employees.
The health insurance tax disproportionately affects small business, and surveying my budget, I have noticed that that tax will truly be significant for my business by 2016. That’s because the health insurance tax will progressively rise as the decade wears on.
What’s more, once it goes into effect there is no turning back — the health insurance tax becomes permanent. A study by a former director of the Congressional Budget Office shows that, on average, the health insurance tax will cost each family in Maine and throughout the U.S. about $5,000 in higher premiums over the decade.
The Affordable Care Act requires all my employees and most of my customers who do not have a plan through their employer to purchase a plan by Jan. 1, 2014.
With rising health care costs across the board in Maine, the health insurance tax simply means less money in people’s pockets. And as someone running a business in the entertainment industry, I know this means our patrons will cut back on frequenting Maine Indoor Karting if they have less money in their budget to spend.
As I speak to my neighbors and other local business owners, I have been struck by hearing how the Affordable Care Act is going to affect their companies.
Many employers are reducing their workers’ schedules to 29 hours a week or fewer because of this burdensome tax. That’s because, with premiums becoming significantly greater for employees logging 30 hours or more a week, there is no other option to avoid paying these astronomical health care premiums.
My solution is that I simply cannot afford a health plan for my workers and my operations will stay lean. But for some of my business colleagues, the health insurance tax means they may have to lay off workers or even shut their doors entirely.
We just can’t let this happen in Maine. The health insurance tax limits our competitiveness, increases the cost of doing business and makes it harder for us to maintain the workforce we need.
While this may not have been the intent of Washington when lawmakers included the health insurance tax in health care reform, our representatives have a responsibility to make right for their small-business owners back home — now, before it goes into effect in 2014.
There is legislation in Congress that I urge my friends, neighbors and fellow small-business owners to support — The Jobs and Premium Protection Act. It would repeal the health insurance tax in the Affordable Care Act. (More information about the effort to end the health insurance tax is available at www.ahipcoverage.com/hit/.)
In Maine, our continued economic recovery from the most recent recession depends on keeping costs in check. Curbing out-of-control health care costs is a necessary step toward this goal. That’s why Mainers are counting on our representatives in Washington to provide more certainty and affordability to the nation’s job creators.
Rick Snow is owner of Maine Indoor Karting in Scarborough.