NJ Small Business

As a Licensed Property/Casualty Underwriter here in NJ, I needed to understand how different businesses work in order to insure them properly. I have underwritten everything from Landscapers to Municipalities. In addition, my husband and I have owned and operated a small commercial electrical contracting firm in this district for nearly 20 years and I can speak first hand as to the difficulties we face as small business owners and the ever increasing frustration that goes with it.

My husband first started his career in the Navy as an Interior Communications Electrician on the USS America.  After serving, he joined IBEW Local 102 (formally 581) and went through apprenticeship and became a NJ licensed electrician in 1991.   We went through many lay-offs and our income was unpredictable.  A union job is great, if you are working. But after many layoffs, and becoming parents, we needed a reliable income, so he left the union and became a Chief Electrician at the NYSE.  It was a good job, but he worked nights and was missing our children growing up.  We decided to go all in and start our own business, it was scary.

Health Insurance was a huge factor, but I was lucky and got a part time job that provided benefits so we could at least cover our family.  That  was in 2006 and we started out as a union employer.  Payroll was hard to meet, but we did.  We have been both a union employee and employer and at that time 25% of GROSS payroll was charged for health insurance. Union benefits are managed by third parties which add another layer of cost.  The costs were high to be a small contractor trying to grow and not being paid for just one job could sink us.  As we were starting to be hit by the recession in 2008, the risk became just too high so we left the union and really went out on our own, again it was scary.

As an employer, we have tried to pay employees fairly but have never been able to provide health benefits due to cost.  In fact, this year our premiums are over $31K for a family of three Silver plan.  Add to that, we pay high premiums for Worker’s Compensation, which I feel is an unnecessary duplicate coverage.  Asking employers to pay for both private health insurance AND Worker’s Compensation is absurd.  Do we get a discount on private health insurance while the employee is at work? Or do we get a discount on worker’s compensation when the employee is not at work?  Of course not. We get multi-car discounts on our private auto insurance, why not for our health and Worker's Compensation premiums as well?

My solution is Medicare for All and it is a sound solution when you think it through.  Under Medicare for All, everyone pays for their own health insurance through their taxes, somewhere between 4-6%of their AGI.  Large companies with payroll in excess of $1M would contribute 10% of an employee’s gross income, except for public entities, as health insurance premiums should be out of our taxes!  Employers would no longer be responsible for providing health insurance.  I also say the medical injury portion of Worker’s Compensation could be eliminated as well.  An injury is not treated any differently whether you are hurt at work or at home, however with separate insurances, you will have separate networks.  Medicare for All would end that problem along with the fighting of proving to the insurance companies where you were injured.  Far too many of us have had that fight, imagine trying to "prove" where you contracted Covid, neither carrier wants to pay for that!  Worker’s Compensation would only be needed for the lost wages portion and that would be based on a stated payroll and not subject to audit. These changes would provide substantial financial relief to employers.   Remember, I worked in insurance for over 20 years, I know what I am talking about, and I know what is possible. 

Imagine starting your own business and not having to worry about healthcare. Imagine being able to hire employees and not having to provide them healthcare. We have so many ineffective rules for hiring that employers try to navigate around such as hiring under 50 people and only hiring only part time to avoid being required to provide benefits.  The Health Insurance carriers that determine our ridiculous premiums, themselves, out source jobs to the Philippines so they do not have to pay health insurance premiums...how absurd!   It is my belief that small business will thrive without the burden of healthcare.  We could be more competitive in hiring.  Just this year, we lost a valuable employee  because we could not provide healthcare benefits.  Medicare for All would level the playing field for all of us as employers and free us to grow our businesses and prosper.