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Commentary: Health-care law passed, but for small businesses, the battle is not over

By Karen Harned
Monday, July 5, 2010; 14

Just a few months ago, President Obama signed the health-care bill into law amid much fanfare. But we're hearing a different tune from small-business owners. They're asking: How much is this going to cost me, how can I opt out, isn't there any way to stop this from taking effect?

What's heartbreaking is that these are the very business owners who have been begging for real reforms -- those that lower costs, give more choice and don't burden them with more tax increases and regulations.

The feedback from small-business owners was clear -- they wanted the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation's leading small-business advocacy organization, to do something.

"The government does not understand what it takes to run a small business? This health-care law is going to do nothing but increase costs and limit our ability to shop for affordable health-care options," said Michael Coakley of C.J. Coakley, a commercial interior construction company in Falls Church.

"And even worse, it's telling all Americans that they must purchase a private product. Where does this end?" he added.

Coakley's concerns were echoed by small-business owners nationwide. This is why NFIB joined 20 states in the federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the recently passed health-care law.

The federal government has gone too far with this law, directly infringing on small-business owners' abilities to manage the day-to-day operations of running their businesses. The individual and employer mandates, combined with the onslaught of new taxes, paperwork requirements and new rules, will dramatically increase the cost of starting and running a small business.

What's more, the law directly violates the Constitution. We don't consider the Constitution an inconvenience. Expanding coverage by chipping away at the freedoms afforded to individuals and small-business owners in the Constitution is unacceptable.

At the core of the lawsuit is the requirement that all individuals purchase qualified health care or face a penalty. Forcing individuals to purchase something simply because they are alive is unprecedented and ultimately unconstitutional. The military's draft is the only exception to this, and Congress's authority to enact the draft is explicitly provided for in the Constitution, unlike this mandate.

What scares small businesses the most is the thought that if Congress can regulate this type of inactivity, then there are essentially no limits on what they can require individuals and businesses to do. If there are no limits, who's to say Congress can't pass a law forcing individuals to join a gym or face a fine? Aspiring to a healthier society is a worthy goal, but do we want the federal government mandating diets, exercise regimens, vitamins and supplement intake?

We want to make it very clear: NFIB has a long history of working on and supporting health-care reform. We are not part of the "Just say no" crowd. Small businesses do need reforms that help reduce costs and increase choices. We have encouraged reforms that cover preexisting conditions, help to create effective and affordable national exchanges, provide the ability to buy across state lines, and include liability reform. But this new law resulted in more bad than good for our nation's job creators. And it is a bridge too far in terms of the future of our constitutional freedoms and liberties.

Small-business owners across the nation deserve better, which is why NFIB is committed to doing everything in our power to protect their by fighting to overturn this unconstitutional law.

Karen Harned is the executive director of the NFIB Small Business Legal Center, the leading advocacy organization for small-business owners in the nation's courts.

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