Is the NFIB Really a Voice for Small Businesses?

  • Share
  • Read Later

Today, the National Federation of Independent Business joined the states suing the federal government on the grounds that federal health reform is unconstitutional. Wow – this ups the ante, right?

Politico seems to think so, saying its daily health care alert this morning:

…politically and symbolically, it could make the lawsuit look less partisan, less like an election year stunt by a bunch of Republican governors and AGs. While long opposed to the law, the NFIB is the nation’s most influential small business lobby at 350,000 members and it will now be formally on record saying the law’s mandates affront the Constitution…

But the NFIB, as I pointed out in a story last November, appears to be anti-Democratic health reform even though that reform empirically includes major benefits for small business. Overall and broadly, this sector of the U.S. economy stands to gain far more than it loses under reform.

As I said in my previous story, the NFIB fought hard against the employer mandate despite that most small businesses would be exempt from the rule. The NFIB helped defeat the public option, even though it would have been a cheaper way for its members to insure its workers without any mandates. In short, the NFIB seemed then to be shooting itself in the foot or misunderstanding how health reform would affect small businesses.

Is that happening again? In a press release announcing its plans to join the legal challenges to the constitutionality of the reform law, the president of the NFIB said:

“Small business owners everywhere are rightfully concerned that the unconstitutional new mandates, countless rules and new taxes in the healthcare law will devastate their business and their ability to create jobs.

They are also concerned about their personal freedoms. This law is the first time the federal government has required individuals to purchase something simply because they are alive. If Congress can regulate this type of inactivity, then there are essentially no limits to what they can mandate individuals to do.”

But the employer mandate does not apply to companies with fewer than 50 workers, the vast majority of small businesses. Plus, the law provides major tax credits to businesses with fewer than 25 employees and average wages below $50,000 per year. The NFIB says the tax credits aren’t large enough or available to enough business, saying “Fewer than 1.8 million small businesses will qualify for the health insurance tax credit.” Even if this is true, isn’t a tax credit program for 1 million small businesses pretty valuable? How about 500,000 small businesses?

One of the biggest difficulties of running a small business is losing out on employees who go to work for large companies that offer better compensation, including health benefits. It’s hard to see how a law that will help small businesses which decide to provide benefits, while exempting most from offering any benefits at all will “devastate their business and their ability to create jobs.”

In fact, that’s the situation under the present system, as I said last November:

Some 70% of the nation’s estimated 50 million uninsured are full-time workers or their dependents, many of whom work for small businesses. Just 39% of workers in firms with three to 24 staff are covered by job-sponsored insurance, down from 50% in 1999. Workers at companies with fewer than 200 employees (that offer coverage) pay an average of $4,204 out of pocket per year for family health insurance, compared with $3,182 for workers at firms above the 200-employee threshold.

The NFIB says most of its members have 10 or fewer workers. Are these the business owners the group really speaks for?