Small business asks the right questions on health care

Small businessmen, at least, are asking the right questions.

Fred Blankenhorn, 1920-1999My dad was a small businessman. (Here he is on his favorite beach.)

We had health care but I know he also paid for a lot of things out of pocket, like eyeglasses, dental visits and my own ADHD.

These days there are more costs than ever. Preventive drug therapy for my hypertension. Acne drugs for the kids. If you're diabetic your costs have doubled in six years.

Small businesses can't afford these costs. This has been true for years.

During this decade many let their workers be subsidized by large businesses that do pay. It's not really health care, but when these employees go to an emergency room the costs are shifted onto paying customers.

It hurts, but this subsidy has become crucial. Thus many small businessmen have a natural affinity for the Republican Party, which would place the payment burden on individuals, not business. It eases the guilt and maintains the cost advantage.

It's expected this preference to avoid costs will hold this year.

But now, many of these small businessmen can't even afford to cover themselves or their families. They can't afford real coverage in the individual market. And so many are rethinking their support for the subsidy.

They are asking the hard question most voters avoid. Who will pay for the care we all need?

Small businesses can't afford it. Big businesses are finding it increasingly hard to take, partly because they're picking up the cost of so many uninsured.

Government can bear it, as it is borne elsewhere, but with that comes taxes, and questions of control over what we all think should be personal decisions, taken out of the insurance market and placed into the public square.

The point is there are no easy answers, and there won't be even after November 4.

Small businessmen, at least, are asking the right questions.

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