My familys small business, Premium Plywood Products, takes great pride in the health care coverage that weve provided our employees since we opened our doors more than two decades ago.
As a small business with fewer than 20 employees, we have always sought to provide comprehensive health care coverage that provides quality and flexibility that fits our diverse group of employees whose ages range from early 20s to early 60s and who work incredibly hard day to day as truck drivers, warehouse managers, forklift operators, sales representatives, accountants and managers. Like many small businesses, we understand that investing in our employees health care coverage is critically important to our companys success in todays challenging economic environment.
However, like millions of fellow Americans opening their mail and shocked to find their health care plans canceled in 2014, our small business received a notification last week stating: Due to the Affordable Care Act, all insurance carriers plans need to comply with the new guidelines so they retired all of their current plan offerings and designed new plans that will satisfy these new guidelines.
Translation: As of 2014, we will no longer be permitted to keep the health care coverage that our small business and employees depend upon. Instead, we will be given more expensive options with less coverage to choose from. Like other small businesses, we will then be faced with the painful choice to absorb the costs that could otherwise go to reinvesting and growing our company or pass along the increase in costs to our employees. Both options are lose-lose not only for our company but more importantly for our hardworking employees and their families.
Turns out, President Obamas promise that he famously repeated throughout the health care debate in 2009 and 2010 If you like your plan, you can keep it was not only misleading, it was a blatant lie. And whats worse, according to an NBC investigative report, the Obama administration has known for at least three years that millions of Americans would receive cancelation letters.
As Ive crisscrossed the 21st Congressional District, hardworking families and small-business owners have recounted their personal experiences with ObamaCare. Whether its an individual whose plan was canceled and cannot sign onto the health care site, the family who sees their health care costs skyrocketing as a result of ObamaCare or the small business forced to cut hours or lay off workers because of the law, it is clear that ObamaCare harms families and small businesses in the north country.
As we continue to struggle as a country with the train wreck of ObamaCare, we should remember that our own representative in Washington is part of the reason for this law.
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens voted to pass an early version of ObamaCare on the first day after he was sworn into office. This was the first major vote he took as a member of Congress, and it was one of the key deciding votes that led to ObamaCares passage. Millions of Americans are just now receiving cancelations in the mail and realizing the promise from the president and the Democrats in Congress was a complete misrepresentation of the truth.
Votes like this matter, and hardworking families are being forced to pay more for their health insurance because of this vote. Small businesses are being forced to cut hours and lay off workers because of this vote.
It is a stark reminder that votes matter. And on the biggest vote at the most important time, Bill Owens voted against the interests of his constituents.
Even worse, Rep. Owens continues to vote to implement ObamaCare at virtually every opportunity. He has had more than 40 opportunities to repeal or modify this disastrous law and instead has continued to vote to implement it.
But notably, Rep. Owens did take the opportunity to vote for subsidies for members of Congress and their staffs and voted to delay ObamaCare for big business. In doing so, he hurt small businesses like ours and hardworking families in the north country.
Indeed, the health care system in our country is in grave need of reform, and Republicans should be clearer in offering solutions.
If we could undo ObamaCare, here are some things we should do to reform health care:
n First, we must fight the waste, fraud and abuse that costs our health care system billions of dollar annually;
n Second, we must pursue tort reform to end frivolous lawsuits that drives up health care costs;
n Third, we should allow individuals and families who dont like their coverage or dont have employer-based insurance to be able to buy their own plan on the same tax-advantaged basis as businesses. Taxpayers should get a tax reduction on an individual and family basis;
n Fourth, we must protect those with pre-existing conditions by funding state-level high-risk pools; and
n Fifth, we should allow health care consumers to purchase health care across state lines, which would help lower costs.
Leadership and votes matter. And as my family business and many others throughout the north country are now learning, ObamaCare isnt what it was cracked up to be.
Im running for Congress because residents deserve a representative who will advocate for common-sense health care reforms that spur small-business growth and help hardworking families, not hurt them. Its time for new leadership.
Elise M. Stefanik lives in Willsboro, N.Y., and is a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in New Yorks 21st Congressional District. She works in north country sales, marketing and management at Premium Plywood Products, an upstate small business her family has owned and operated for more than 20 years.