Healthy Debate

Should there be an employer mandate for small businesses to provide health care?
Jim Houser and Rachel McCormack Barry Bruner


Jim Houser, co-owner, Hawthorne Auto Clinic, an auto repair shop in Portland, Ore.

• That's the system we have in this country. I don't think it's reasonable to go to single payer. I think [our system] can be designed to accommodate very small businesses. Everyone should contribute to some degree, and that includes the employers.

• A mandate levels the playing field. When I compete with businesses that don't provide insurance, they have lower overhead, and therefore an advantage.

• Not doing anything is going to kill small businesses. If we ignore health care, small businesses pay for it one way or another. They pay for it in their taxes through having to compensate hospitals for people who have to go to emergency rooms. The way health-care premiums are increasing, it's not sustainable for our business. Doing nothing will be worse than developing a system that expects everybody to contribute.

• We're a wealthy society. It'd be one thing if we were a Third World country and didn't have the resources. But there's no question that we have the resources, so I do think we have the ethical and moral responsibility to provide health care.


Rachel McCormack, president and co-owner, MicroMax, a Canton, Mich.-based software developer

• I come from the U.K., where they have universal single-payer health care, and I think it works pretty well. But health care has absolutely nothing to do with employment—and shouldn't. [Requiring businesses to provide health insurance is] damaging to our economy. Health care is social welfare, and it should be the government's job to provide it.

• The proposal that requires an 8% payroll tax if you don't provide benefits is terrible. The average employer probably pays that for health insurance. But our employees are very highly paid. [So] we pay about 2.5% of payroll for our insurance, and we provide good benefits.

• I'm not opposed to paying a fair tax, perhaps per employee. But I object to paying more than other people simply because I provide better-paying jobs than other business owners.

• I think it's a human right. I don't see how a country can call itself civilized if it doesn't provide basic care to all citizens.

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