To the editor:
I’ve followed the health reform debates and wonder what it will mean for my bottom line. I support the amendment by U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and it would actually help me continue to provide health care to our employees.
Under the Senate bill, small businesses with less than 50 employees are not required to provide health care to their employees. The intent was to exempt smaller shops from going out of business. For construction, defining small business as 50 employees or less creates a loophole that would exempt 90 percent of construction employers.
One of the loudest arguments in opposition to the Merkley amendment has been that such a requirement would detrimentally affect our industry to the point of collapse. How can that be when my company, along with over 25,000 construction employers, provides health insurance? We’ve been doing it for more than 72 years.
Without the Merkley amendment, those companies that do not provide health insurance will have an increased advantage over my company, and countless others, that provide their employees with health insurance. It is not unusual for one company to win a bid by a margin of less than 2 percent. As any business owner who covers their employees knows, providing health insurance for their employees is often expensive.
But don’t take it from me just because my business might lose out on some projects. No, let’s remember that the health care bill is reforming employer-provided plans in order to cut down on our shared public costs for the uninsured.
Trust me, continuing to allow construction business owners to avoid providing health benefits will also cost the average taxpayer.
Why should my company who looks after our workers and American taxpayers pay the health care bill for those other companies who win construction bids because they refuse to provide insurance protection to their hard-working employees?
Sens. Feingold and Kohl, don’t shortchange responsible small business owners.
Continue to support the Merkley amendment and its inclusion in final health care legislation.
vice president/chief operating officer,
Lemberg Electric Co. Inc.