Small-business owners split on repealing Obama health care law

Sheryl Hart co-owner of Second String Music discusses the effects a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would have on her as a small business own with diabetes at Second String Music on Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 27, 2016 9:15 am Updated: Dec. 27, 2016 9:28 am

QUINCY -- Second String Music owner Sheryl Hart had always considered herself to be "uninsurable" until the Affordable Care Act was introduced.

A Type 1 diabetic, Hart said she has lost jobs because of the cost of insuring her with a pre-existing condition. Whole-heartedly in favor of the legislation, she cannot fathom maintaining her business without the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.

"I have health insurance. That's huge," Hart said, pausing to emphasize the significance of her statement. "Without it, there's no way this business could function. None at all."

Though her rates have more than doubled over the past year, Hart said the prices tagged to the ACA are still a far cry from the days when she went without.

The premiums are "still absolutely amazing and reasonable," Hart said. "We love that we can actually have a small business in this town, can afford to pay our house payment, and can afford health insurance and can afford to grow the business."

Hart's reflection on the benefits she has received from the ACA was sparked primarily by the uncertain future of the program. President-elect Donald Trump called for the complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act throughout his campaign.

On his website, Trump said: "Obamacare has raised the economic uncertainty of every single person residing in this country. As it appears Obamacare is certain to collapse of its own weight. ... The best social program has always been a job -- and taking care of our economy will go a long way towards reducing our dependence on public health programs."

With expected cooperation from a Republican majority in the House of Representatives, "several reforms will be offered that should be considered by Congress so that on the first day of the Trump Administration, we can start the process ...," Trump's website said.

"The future is completely uncertain for someone like me," Hart said. "I don't know what this guy is going to do."

Should the ACA be repealed in its entirety, about 29.8 million Americans would lose their health insurance.

"When we opened our business, that was not the qualifying factor, but as time went on, it became pretty clear pretty fast that health insurance was a major factor," Hart said. "For someone like me, it (the ACA) works."

Not all small-business owners support the ACA.

"It would be absolutely huge," said Mike Nobis, JK Creative Printers and Mailing president, referring to the repeal of the health care law. "It made costs go up so much, it's unbelievable."

Nobis said his health insurance expenses have risen 22 percent in 2016 alone.

"Some employees are single. Some are older. They have different needs but are all forced into the same category," Nobis said. "You should be able to pick the insurance that fits your needs."

In offering an alternative, Nobis touted many of the same measures offered by Trump as a solution to the issue -- allowing the sale of health insurance across state lines, expanded use of health savings accounts and promoting the free market.

"Right now, we have the least coverage ever at the highest cost," Nobis said. "I believe in a free market and in my employees."

Increased use of HSAs, Nobis said, might indirectly lead to improved productivity by employees by incentivizing them with increased money on hand.

"These fixes definitely could have been done a lot easier than Obamacare," Nobis said.

If the ACA is repealed, "my costs would go down, so I could beef my programs up again."