One of the hardest things any business leader has to do is lay people off. It’s even harder in a small business in a small community — these aren’t just your employees, they’re your friends, your neighbors, your relatives. You know exactly how much they rely on their jobs with you, and how much they’ll suffer when you lay them off.
You also know that most of them won’t be able to afford health insurance on their own.
Last year, for our small pewter manufacturing and retailing company to survive, I had to lay off a few people, including one of my best friends at the company. She was a young woman with whom my wife and I socialized outside of work, and whose baby’s birth my wife had attended.
Her baby had a serious cardio-respiratory problem that required cardiac surgery. The bills for his care amounted to more than $1 million in his first two years.
Imagine how terrified she was for her baby’s health when I told her we were eliminating her position.
That terror is something no American should ever have to go through, and something no American business leader should ever have to put one of his or her employees through.
The Affordable Care Act solves this problem, and that’s one of the reasons we in the small business community support the ACA and are delighted with the Supreme Court’s ruling in support of the law.
Our company’s heritage in American craft stretches back to 1755, when Thomas Danforth II opened a pewter workshop in colonial Connecticut. We take pride in our deep American roots, and it feels wrong that America is the only developed country in the world in which millions of people don’t have health insurance.
The ACA is a big step in the right direction, making insurance affordable for everyone through a system of tax credits and subsidies, and ensuring that everyone will have insurance regardless of employment status or income. Had the ACA been in place when I had to lay off my friend, she would not have had a moment’s worry about her baby’s health care.
As the American Sustainable Business Council has shown, the Affordable Care Act helps the economy by lowering costs for all small businesses, enabling them to cover more employees and reduce layoffs.
With the court’s decision, companies like ours across the country will save money on health-care costs, and re-invest that money in growth that will create jobs. Our employees will never again have to worry about losing their insurance if they lose their jobs. In our small company, we’ll be able to spend less time on health insurance administration, and more time making and selling pewter.
With the court’s affirmation, the ACA will make for healthier Americans and healthier businesses. That’s good for everyone.
Bram Kleppner is CEO of Danforth Pewter, a crafts manufacturer and retailer, with stores in Vermont and Virginia. He serves on the Healthcare Committee at Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, a partner in the American Sustainable Business Council .