Study: Small Business Healthcare Costs Have Doubled in Obama Years

Thursday, 06 Feb 2014 09:07 PM

By Cathy Burke

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A study of 780 small business owners has shown their healthcare costs have doubled under President Obama — and that the steep rise is thwarting their growth.

The survey by the National Small Business Association, reported Thursday by The Hill, showe small businesses pay a monthly average of $1,121 per worker for health insurance premiums, up from $590 in 2009.

The sticker shock hit 91 percent of small businesses during the most recent renewal period, the study found.

"Surprisingly, there are some that deny the healthcare law is hurting the economy or small businesses, despite the mounting evidence of the law's ill effects," Missouri Republican Rep. Sam Graves, chairman of the House Small Business Committee, told The Hill.

Still, the number of small businesses offering health insurance went up to 70 percent from 66 percent in 2009, the study found — even as 15 percent of the price-stressed companies said they'd drop coverage this year rather than struggle to keep up.

Two-thirds of the small companies said the price hikes meant they had less profit to plow back into expansion.

"With so many small businesses stuck in neutral, we shouldn't be surprised about the tepid growth of America's economy," Graves told The Hill.

The rising costs also affected hiring and layoffs, the survey found, with 34 percent of small businesses saying they were holding off hiring new workers, and 12 percent reporting they'd let a worker go.

The report came the day Bloomberg News reported small business enrollment in Obamacare health plans is off to a disappointingly slow start.

The debut of the federal insurance marketplace for companies with fewer than 50 employees has been delayed till November — and only 14 states got their websites up by the original October deadline.

In those 14, the response has been unspectacular.

In Kentucky, just 14 companies have signed up. Colorado’s marketplace has enrolled 127 businesses and Connecticut’s 106, Bloomberg reported.

Under the Affordable Care Act, companies with 50 or more workers must offer affordable health insurance by 2015 or face a fine of as much as $3,000 per employee.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees—which employ 31 million people combined, according to 2011 Census Bureau data—aren’t required to offer medical coverage. If they do, however, plans have to meet Obamacare standards.

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