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Oregon small businesses support Affordable Care Act

Mail Tribune
April 15, 2012By Mark Kellenbeck

Oregon small businesses support Affordable Care Act

In late March the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act. I may not be a legal expert, but as a small business owner I'm among a group on the front lines of dealing with health care costs and I'd like to put in my two cents.

Uphold the law!

It's already beginning to work for small businesses, and we're just getting started.

I hear lots of opinions in Southern Oregon on the Affordable Care Act, which its critics have deemed "Obama Care." But ironically, many who oppose it are those who would most benefit if it survives the current Supreme Court challenge.

For small businesses in Southern Oregon, healthcare is one of our biggest challenges. Those of us who feel we can afford to provide it for our employees see the rates go up dramatically every year. The ever-escalating cost of health insurance cuts deeply into a small business' ability to adequately pay employees, advance their wages at a rate something close to inflation and remain competitive with large corporations whose health insurance cost can be as much as 50 percent less.

I also see the importance of the Affordable Care Act as the co-chair of a statewide coalition of small businesses, the Main Street Alliance of Oregon. The overwhelming majority of our members are mom-and-pop, bricks-and-mortar businesses from "Main Streets" all over the state. And most of these businesses can neither afford health insurance for their employees nor themselves.

According to the Oregon Center for Public Policy, only 40 percent of small Oregon firms (under 50 employees) can afford health insurance. This makes them much less competitive with firms over 50 employees, 95 percent of which provide health insurance.

When they look at the promise of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and of the new Oregon Health Insurance Exchange, Main Street Alliance of Oregon businesses statewide see the possibility that at last they will be able to afford to provide the kind of benefits necessary to compete effectively in hiring and retaining long-term, dedicated employees with the Starbucks of this world — and do the right thing for their employees and themselves.

There are several key benefits the Affordable Care Act provides to small businesses.

And the new state insurance exchanges, just formed in Oregon as the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange, that will allow small businesses and uninsured individuals to pool together and benefit from shared negotiating power.

Small businesses are benefiting and will benefit even more as more provisions of the law take effect. It will be a great blow to small businesses in our area, and throughout Oregon, if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care Act.

This is why I, and many small businesses around Oregon, say "Uphold the law!"

Mark Kellenbeck and his wife, Kathleen, are co-owners of Brain Joy LLC in Medford. He is also a board co-chairman of Main Street Alliance of Oregon. Main Street Alliance (nationally) has filed a friend of the court brief in this Supreme Court case defending the Affordable Care Act.