Steve Ferree Balances Business and the Need for Health Reform

Although he's vice chair of Oregon’s chapter of the NFIB, which opposed President Obama’s Affordable Care Act at the national level, he understands both sides of the coin when it comes to health reform

April 12, 2012—Steve Ferree is vice-chair of Oregon’s chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). The national organization was the only group to join 26 states in opposing President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act during arguments heard before the U.S. Supreme Court two weeks ago.

But as the owner of Gladstone-based Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a small business, and as vice-chair of the state health insurance exchange’s consumer advisory committee, he understands both sides of the coin when it comes to arguments about reforming healthcare.

“This is a really polarizing issue,” he said.

Although the national NFIB opposed the Affordable Care Act, Oregon’s NFIB chapter never took a formal position. “That was a national position,” Ferree said.

The NFIB opposes the Affordable Care Act (ACA), arguing that its mandate requiring everyone to purchase health insurance by 2014 violates the Constitution’s commerce clause, which gives Congress the power to regulate commerce “with foreign Nations, and among the several States.” The NFIB also held that the ACA would raise not lower, healthcare costs.

Ferree said he leans towards agreeing with the NFIB’s position. “I’m not sure the federal government should be dictating what people should be buying,” he said. “That’s a bad road for us to go down, [because] what’s next? I’m not a big fan of government control."

At the same, he sees how an individual mandate to purchase health insurance “could help” make healthcare more affordable to individuals and small businesses. “It can be something positive for not only individuals, but small businesses,” Ferree said.

Oregon’s NFIB chapter supported the creation of a state health insurance exchange, which is expected to offer a one-stop shopping place for individuals and small businesses in January 2014.

When discussions first began around starting an exchange, Ferree said Oregon’s NFIB chapter became proactive and involved. “If we’re going forward, let us be part of the conversation,” he remembers thinking. “This has to be a collaborative effort. The answer to all this is in the middle.”

He thinks Oregon’s exchange will be most successful if it’s run like a business, and the “exchange becomes another vehicle, or another tool, in which to be able to purchase healthcare insurance.” By having 700,000 uninsured Oregonians in the same pool, insurance costs will be lower, he said.

Even if the Affordable Care Act is overturned, it’s possible for Oregon to have an insurance exchange, he said. But the state would lose a significant amount of federal funds to provide tax credits and need another source of revenue.

“Whether that happens, who knows,” he said, adding that until the Supreme Court releases its decision on the Affordable Care Act, “nobody knows what will happen.”

But, he said, it’s imperative to deal with healthcare costs faced by small businesses such as his. “As a business owner, healthcare has been a big frustration to us,” Ferree said. “It’s a costly benefit for us. The renewal process is a pain.”

Ferree intends to continue offering several health insurance options to his 30 employees and their dependents, realizing that narrows their options. “When you have 30 employees, you have 30 families with all different needs. We’re really minimizing what kind of coverage our folks are going to have. With the exchange and the way it’s progressing, we’re [going to be] able to allow those employees have more options.”

That, he said, makes good business sense.

“We’re able to help our employees have good healthcare coverage…and make choices for their healthcare,” he said, which makes his business competitive and a desirable place to work.

Once people become part of the exchange and can choose their own health plans, “they can understand the cost piece, and become part of [the conversation].”

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Steve your comments are succinct. As a small business owner and skeptic I seriously doubt insurance companies will roll back premiums should your efforts with the exchange make sense. Show me where government intervention into any industry has seen costs reduce? Government both Local, State and Federal have absolutely no idea what profit means in business as they have come to EXPECT entitlements, earmarks and subsidies. Without profit, AFTER TAX I MIGHT ADD, non budgeted items such as Obamacare and the Oregon exchange can not be funded by small business without serious cutbacks in cost of goods sold and/or employees. One of Oregon's largest employers announced if Obamacare gets past the supreme court, they will layoff 200 employees so as to pay for the healthcare payment without effecting their annual budgeted profit. PLEASE CONVEY THIS TO YOUR ORGANIZATION; Profit is the only way taxes or non-budgeted items can be paid for. I wonder if the IRS will force the aforementioned employer to hire back the 200 laid off employees and thus bankrupt his company? QUESTION: if Obamacare is such a good plan and is somewhat following the Oregon Health Care Exchange, why then does the IRS plan to hire 4000 new auditors to police the plan? Why has the SEIOU and AFSCME unions opted out of the program? Why is 535 Washington DC legislators not on the exact healthcare plan they expect the rest of American to be on? Again, show me where government authority into the private sector has made more profit for businesses. Here is an interesting digression, President Obama wants to pass the Buffet Rule which will raise about $5 billion annually from the top 1% income producers in America who I believe is already responsible for about 40% of our countries entire revenue. Now if he simply cut 1% staff from all US Departments we save the country $33 billion. So I must ask, who is watching out over spending in this Country? Why would Obama want $5 billion more when he can save $33 billion. President Obama last year talked about a proposed budget to seek $1.25 Trillion in Descretionary spending and $3.2 Trillion in Mandatory Spending. Please keep in mind from 2008-2010 all three branches of our federal government was controlled by the democratic party and even then they could not agree to a budget within their own party. In 2010 the people of America voiced their displeasure and Congress is now a republican majority which means, still no budget because the Senate controlled by the democratic party and the President will not accept any budgets offered by Congress. Now if we consider we have no budget and Obamacare is added to the debt, which our United States CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE says is non sustainable, the spending increases another $4 trillion over I believe the next four years. The George W. Bush cuts expire December 31, 2012 which effectively means a huge tax increase is expected on the Private Sector while the Public Sector remains insullated. Grossly unfair! What efforts has the Obama Administration taken to get manufacturing back in the United States? Afterall we are all responsible for companies leaving for China to manufacture as we demand in our retirement accounts they give us maximum returns on our investment in return for holding ownership in their stocks. Oregon PERS should appreciate that logic as they demand 8% minimum return, get all upside with no downside. The epitome of greed. To a degree we are all selfish and greedy and it is therefore incumbent on government to act like adults and monitor over the masses with wisdom not greed and corruption. That starts with reducing our countries debt, reducing the size of government, eliminating earmarks, entitlements and subsidies. Now here is a bit of information you may not be aware of: What party was in charge of Congress in relationship to our national debt crisis during the past thirty (30) years? US Public Debt in Trillions compared to the Congress and Speaker in charge at the time, 1980-1990 $900 million - Tip Oneill - Democrat 1990-2000 $3.2 trillion - Tom Foley - Democrat 2000- 2007 - $5.7 trillion - Gingrich/Hastert - Republican - balance deficit spending. 2007-2010 - $14.39 trillion - Nancy Pelosi - Democrat Annual interest on debt - $844 million Anticipated debt in 2020 - $27 trillion if the above trend continues and Obamacare mandated. We currently receive $15 trillion in GDP while our debt is $15.3 trillion. How is that sustainable without totally destroying small business and industry in America? The current democratic administration blames current US debt problems on the former Bush administration, but it should be pointed out Bush did not have the courage to stop Democrat Bill Clinton's mandate that all citizens should own their own home, thus causing the Housing bubble to burst. The Clinton Housing mandate was the most outrageous and idiotic concept of all time as all anyone had to do was STATE THEIR EARNINGS and they got a loan. Does this not just sound like fraud and breed more corruption? What's the difference of that and a Ponzi scheme? George Bush wanted to be reelected and therefore did not have the courage to repeal this policy (poor leadership). What he should have done was take Fannie and Freddie back away from Barney Frank's control and stablize the banking systeme. Instead the result was a near failure in our entire banking system. The central Banks then printed more money out of nothing, and the Treasury department put it into circulation through loans. Who is running this country? What business can operate that way? It is no wonder the beltway has seen so much corruption as there is in fact no oversight, No transparency, and when Congress can inside trade for profit while we try the same and go to jail, I say where is the honesty, ethics and leadership in that? What example are they showing. As parents we lead by example, but it seems Government does not abide by that simplest of principles. If US Government gets in a financial pinch they just print more money and add a fancy word to it like Quanitative Easing and put it into circulation. How is this not forced inflation? How is that not spending more than you have? How is that not poor parenting? The damage and polarization the current administration is causing in this country I feel is out of control. Leadership is suspect and our foreign policy is disconcerting. When the President of the United States refers to the Marine Corps (pronounced CORE) as the "Marine "Corpse" and says he has toured all 57 states with one left to visit, then is it not reasonable for business owners to wonder about our leadership? Steve I appreciate your efforts as an NFIB member and the work you are doing regarding the Oregon Health exchange. Your job is not an easy one especially considering the political atmosphere we are in regarding "politically correctness" and the poor parenting mentioned above. Frankly, I would like to see more men like you with the courage to stick up for your principals versus permitting others to force their influence or agendas on you/us and thus on the rest of small busines. Those of us who have fought in defense of those rights for this country implore you to never change. "Be all that you can be". Our country offers freedom, liberty and equal rights so it is no wonder millions cross our borders illegally in hopes for a better life. But the financial burden for those free loading off our financial system is wrong and the Oregon Health Exchange must recognize that and make changes to it first before it can expect the love they seem to want for an idea that is being paid for by taxpayers. If Oregon's Health Exchange wants to pay for the emergency room visits then I would advocate the Public Employees pay for that expense so that they might understand why the Private Sector is so upset with the parenting our government has shown to date. Thank you for your time. Earle Wicklund