By Ann Meyer
While conservative business groups vowed to take their fight for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act to the polls in November, many Chicago small business owners expressed relief that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law.
The individual mandate requiring that all Americans purchase health insurance or pay a penalty was the focal point of the high court’s deliberations, with opponents such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses saying it represented government over-reach. The court, however, ruled that the individual mandate was allowable as a tax. In practice, the ruling means those who choose not to purchase health insurance will be subject to a tax of about $95 in 2014, $325 in 2015 and $695 in 2016, though exceptions could be granted for financial hardship, according to media reports.
Mandate designed to spread risk
Business owners who want health insurance but have struggled to afford it largely favored the high court’s decision. By spreading risk across a larger pool, the individual mandate is intended to keep costs in check while providing access to many who currently go without coverage.
“Some people say this country can’t afford to cover everyone with pre-existing conditions. But this isn’t a money issue. It’s a moral issue. What kind of country do we want to be then?” said Gina Morri, a Chicago-area freelance graphic designer who is covered under her spouse’s plan.
Under the current system, when individuals apply for coverage with pre-existing conditions, they’re likely to be denied, Morri said. “If someone [without insurance] has had a heart attack, they’re screwed. They’re going to go bankrupt because they can’t pay.”
Morri’s sentiment is echoed by other business owners. According to research from the Small Business Majority, 50 percent of small business owners were in favor of the law. The National Federation of Independent Business, however, said its members overwhelmingly opposed the individual mandate.
Evanston photographer Thomas Chadwick, a native of England, said he would prefer “public” or national insurance, but regarded the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the Affordable Care Act as a positive step. His wife, Erica, who works as the principal agent for the company, said they incorporated their business partly to be able to purchase group insurance after being denied due to pre-existing conditions, including a misdiagnosis.
All Kids program
The Chadwicks’ two children are covered by the state of Illinois’ All Kids program, which charges a small monthly fee on a sliding scale for comprehensive coverage including hospital care, doctors visits, prescription drugs and vision and dental care. According to the program’s website, the monthly premium per child for a family of four earning between $45,000 and $67,000 a year is $40.
A survey gauging reaction to the high court’s decision from a diverse group of employers suggests 77 percent intend to provide health coverage in 2014 when the exchanges take effect, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans based in Brookfield, Wis.
When asked what the best possible decision would have been for their organization, however, results were mixed. About 46 percent said they would have liked the high court to strike down the law, while 41 percent wanted it upheld and 12 percent wanted the individual mandate overturned with the rest of the law upheld.
Photo updated 5:33 p.m. June 29, 2012.