Save Health Care for Nevada’s Small Businesses

Peter Frigeri

I own and manage two small businesses in Las Vegas. I love being a Nevada small business owner, but it’s not without its challenges.

Senator Heller and Peter Frigeri, March 2017

Small businesses drive the economy — creating jobs, local investment, tax dollars, and growth for the whole community. But before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health care was a serious challenge for many of us small business owners. We faced annual premium spikes, plans that cost a lot but covered little, or we simply couldn’t afford insurance.

The ACA not only stabilized premium increases, but also gave small business owners leverage with insurance companies for the first time. And it’s worked well — more than four million small business owners nationwide gained insurance under the ACA, and because of it, my family, employees, and community are healthier, covered by insurance, and more economically stable.

With the Senate poised to vote on their version of a repeal of the ACA, which would strip 22 million of people of health care, including many of those 4 million small business owners, I feel that Senator Heller needs to hear from a Nevada small business owner like me about how his vote will impact his small business constituents and the communities they serve.

First, the Republican health care bill is a jobs killer. Any small business owner from any industry will tell you that without customers with money to spend, their business can’t succeed. The GOP’s plan slashes Medicaid by more than $834 billion, creating huge state budget deficits and threatening the health care of 74 million Americans who rely on Medicaid every day.

In Nevada, more than 200,000 people gained health care under the ACA’s Medicaid expansion alone. States like ours that expanded Medicaid are going to lose jobs at a disproportionate rate because we receive more federal dollars. Small businesses feel every lost job in their communities — each one is also a lost customer.

Second, the cost of health care will rise for everyone except the very wealthy, who are getting billions in tax cuts at the expense of average Americans. This will force Nevada small business owners back to a time when many of us couldn’t afford coverage at all. With 23 million people on the verge of being kicked off insurance, what will that do the costs for everyone else left in the insurance pools?

As people drop off, Medicaid is decimated, and tax credits that make buying coverage for average earners eliminated, we’ll see premiums skyrocket by as much as 20% in 2018 alone, possibly triggering the collapse of the private market. We’re already beginning to see this unfold as the Trump Administration undermines the insurance market and plays politics with people’s lives.

Here in Nevada, we’ll also see a return to the days of local government making up the shortfalls at the University Medical Center (UMC), and shifting costs to cover the indigent care that UMC has to supply. And even as suffering increases across our state and country, very wealthy individuals and big corporations would be enjoying a $664 billion tax break. It’s shocking that the GOP would put forward a bill that is so thoroughly callous in its disregard for small businesses and working families.

Third, this plan personally hurts my family, my employees, my community, and thus the overall stability of my business. For example, one of my hardest working, loyal employees Bernard has been with me for about 10 years. He turns 60 this month. Two years ago, we were working in a customer’s yard when he complained of being light-headed and needed to sit down.

It was so out of character for him that I became concerned, and my alarm grew when he asked to go to UMC rather than a quick care center. A blood test revealed he had nearly zero white blood cells — diagnosis, colon cancer. During the last 2 years, the ACA and Medicaid have been keeping Bernard alive with 2 rounds of chemo, and a third scheduled to start in two weeks. Quite honestly, I fear that without the coverage provided by the ACA and the state of Nevada, Bernard won’t live long enough to qualify for Medicare.

This GOP plan is bad for everyone, and what’s bad for consumers and local businesses is bad for the economy. Any economist will tell you that when people have more money in their pockets, they can spend more at local businesses.

Does the ACA need some improvements? Of course. But we shouldn’t scrap what’s working for Main Street in exchange for a for a new plan that makes health care unaffordable, gives billions in tax breaks to the very wealthy, and allows insurance companies to charge more for people with pre-existing conditions — people like my daughter, who would be priced out of insurance in a matter of months.

Senate Republicans like Senator Heller have the opportunity right now to take a stand for small businesses and working people in Nevada by rejecting any plan that hurts not only Nevada’s communities and economy, but also worsens the lives of tens of millions of people across the country.

 Peter Frigeri owns two small businesses, Gaia Flowers and Expo Ease, in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a member of Main Street Alliance.

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