SEMA eNews Vol. 12, No. 10, March 12, 2009

SEMA Members Agree on Need for Health Care Reform

SEMA members responded to a comprehensive survey with a clear message that the nation’s health care system is broken. The survey results underscored the need to make tough, balanced decisions to help solve the problem. Issues include whether to require businesses to offer coverage and individuals to buy insurance.
 
Under the current system, nearly 27 million small-business owners, employees and dependents are left uninsured. Skyrocketing premiums have made it especially difficult for specialty automotive companies to offer health care coverage to their employees. Enacting legislation to help SEMA member businesses gain access to affordable coverage remains a top priority for the association.
 
“The SEMA member survey provides valuable insight to the health care dilemma faced by small businesses,” said Steve McDonald, SEMA’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “SEMA members want to ensure that their workers have access to affordable, quality coverage. While wanting to be part of the solution, the survey results caution that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The ability of individual small businesses to make meaningful contributions must factor in their size and economic circumstances.”
 
Nearly all SEMA members are small businesses. As of early 2009, 25% of SEMA member companies participating in the survey provided health insurance and paid the entire premium. Another 47% asked the worker to pay a portion of the premium, while 28% provided no health care coverage.

Since SEMA last surveyed its members on this question in 2005, there has been a continued trend towards requiring the worker to help pay the premium. Companies also took other steps to reduce premiums, such as seeking reduced coverage and increased deductibles. 
 
Last year, insurance premiums rose at an annual rate of 10% and beyond for more than 50% of respondent companies. For those companies that provided coverage, 27% of respondents paid an average premium of $3,000–$5,000 per employee/year while 36% paid more than $5,000/year.  
 
The survey indicated a willingness to work within the current employer-based system or transfer health insurance responsibilities to individuals.  The key message was that any solution needed to be affordable and could not impose costly mandates on the employer.  

The survey showed that federal health care tax credits to employers would be a powerful incentive for increasing health insurance coverage. Nearly 41% of the respondents agreed that a federal tax credit of $2,000 per employee would make it financially possible for their companies to voluntarily cover 60% of the premiums. Another 43% already provide at least 60% coverage.

There was also widespread support for permitting small businesses to band together to pool risk, reduce insurance premiums and level the playing field between large and small companies in the health care market.

In contrast, SEMA members generally opposed a national “pay-or-play” policy with mandates on employers to provide certain defined health care benefits to their workers, or pay into a government insurance plan that would.  Sixty-six percent of the respondents were opposed to the government defining the kind of health care coverage an employer must provide or the percent of premiums that an employer must pay under a pay-or-play system.

Under proposed legislation, small businesses could be exempt from such a system, but their workers could be required to purchase insurance on their own through an individual mandate. 
 
SEMA members expressed a strong desire to provide access to high-quality health care benefits to their workers, even though it was a financial strain on their small business to do so, especially under current economic conditions. SEMA members criticized the government and insurance companies for not doing enough to control health care costs, and expressed frustration, confusion and uncertainty over the exact reasons why premiums have been rising so quickly. 
 
SEMA is a member of the Small Business Coalition For Affordable Healthcare, the nation’s leading coalition dedicated to increasing access and affordability of health insurance for the largest segment of the uninsured—small-business owners, employees and their dependents. Congress is expected to begin debating reform legislation in the near future.

President Obama has indicated that he wants to expand the current employer-based system and implement other structural reforms to promote market-based competition, reduce costs and simplify paperwork. 
 
“SEMA welcomes the current opportunity to provide a national solution for access to affordable care,” said McDonald. “We remain enthused about legislation that would establish state or nationwide health insurance purchasing pools offering small businesses a wide range of health plan choices. SEMA will also work to promote other comprehensive reforms to provide quality, value and competition.”
 
For more information about the survey, contact Stuart Gosswein at stuartg@sema.org.

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