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Foxx’s House committee hears Obamacare horror stories

Small business owners testify about excessive costs, burdensome regulations, and plead for alternative ways to cover employees

Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th District (Photo from Rep. Foxx's website)
Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th District (Photo from Rep. Foxx's website)

Small businesses are still hurting from the effects of Obamacare, several entrepreneurs testified on Wednesday before a congressional committee looking at the impacts of and considering alternative to the 2010 health insurance law.

The main message business owners gave to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-5th District: Providing insurance has become costly, disruptive, and distracting to their companies’ core missions. Committee members also examined the failures and consequences of the Affordable Care Act, and discussed patient-centered solutions toward better, more affordable health care.

“For nearly seven years Americans have struggled as they’ve seen their health-care costs skyrocket, their plans canceled and their choices and access to quality care diminished,” Foxx said. “That is why for nearly seven years, Republicans have been fighting to provide the relief Americans desperately need.”

She told the committee about constituents harmed by Obamacare.

• A West Jefferson couple is paying 225 percent more for premiums than four years ago.

• A Hickory resident’s plan was canceled three times because of the law, and now he has access to only one insurance provider.

• A Winston-Salem man and his daughter have an $800 monthly premium and a $14,000 deductible.

• A 70-year-old retiree from Advance is working part-time to pay his wife’s $900 monthly premium.

Foxx quoted a recent study by the American Action Forum that found Obamacare “has destroyed 300,000 small business jobs, and cost small business employees $19 billion each year in wages. An estimated 10,000 small businesses were even forced to close their doors because of the law’s burdensome regulations.”

“As a small business, we are a close-knit family. Our employees are much more than ‘employees.’ They are our friends,” said Scott Bollenbacher, founder of an accounting firm. “We want to provide for them, provide benefits, and help them any way we can. We know that our success as a business depends on our team.”

But in 2014 it became nearly impossible for Bollenbacher to continue providing health-care benefits to his employees when their insurance plan was canceled because of Obamacare. His only option was switching to a plan that led to a 78 percent premium increase.

“Shopping for the right plan is complicated for us because the firm is close to the Indiana-Ohio border, and our employees live in both states. We must find a policy that is accepted by doctors and hospitals on both sides of the state line,” Bollenbacher said. “The experience has been frustrating and stressful. The increases and cancellations are unsustainable for small businesses.”

Joe Eddy, president and CEO of the family-owned Eagle Manufacturing Co. in West Virginia, is also struggling to provide quality, affordable coverage for his 195 employees.

“In 2009, prior to the ACA, we were paying about $13,500 per year per employee, and by 2013, those costs increased to more than $15,800 per year per employee,” Eddy told the committee.

“Our health-care costs were on the rise and posing a risk to the company’s financial health.”

Eddy testified that the taxes, paperwork, fees and mandates cost nearly $1,000 per year per employee. He also had to hire an additional human resources professional just to manage health care and all the new requirements.

Today, Eagle’s plan costs more than $22,800 per year per employee, putting it at risk of being assessed the “Cadillac” tax if that provision of Obamacare is not repealed.

Dr. Tevi Troy, head of the American Health Policy Institute, urged Congress to deliver a pathway for better, more patient-centered care, while also protecting employers — like Bollenbacher and Eddy — who want to meet the needs of their employees and promote a healthy workforce.

“Our policy should not be to increase the burdens or costs on employers and the 177 million employees and dependents who get coverage through the employer-based system, but to encourage that coverage for the benefit of our system as a whole,” Troy testified.

Republicans are working toward a repeal-and-replace solution for Obamacare. Georgia Republican Congressman Tom Price, President Trump’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, opposes Obamacare, and has drafted a plan to replace it. His nomination was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday and moved to the Senate floor.

That approval came after committee rules were changed to circumvent Democrats’ delaying tactics on confirmation. Finance Committee members were in their second day of boycotting the proceedings, which had left the committee short of the normal quorum to vote on a measure.

“We are on a rescue mission to deliver the relief people need, and this committee will play an important role in the process,” Foxx said of her panel. “We’re going to do this the right way. … We will tackle the challenges of our broken health-care system through step-by-step solutions that provide lower costs, more choices, and protect the most vulnerable among us.”