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Fact Check: Does the Business Community Really Support the Polis Administration’s Public Option?

December 9, 2019 / Small Business Majority
Flatlining ECG line indicating claims are false

A national group called the Small Business Majority recently published a column claiming the proposed public option “will greatly help our state’s job creators and small business employees access the affordable health coverage they need for their growth and success.” But upon closer examination, the group is misrepresenting the real concerns of the Colorado business community to provide political cover for the Polis administration.

CLAIM #1: Colorado employers support the Polis administration’s public option because it would “help Colorado small businesses compete.”

FACT: This claim is flatly contradicted by the facts.

The Small Business Majority’s column, published by Colorado Politics, was a thinly veiled response to an earlier guest commentary from Kevin Ross, a small business owner and the mayor of Eaton in northern Colorado.

According to Ross, multiple studies on the public-option concept have predicted significant job losses in the healthcare sector and potential hospital closures, especially in rural areas. Ross also criticized the Polis administration’s track record on healthcare so far, which has actually resulting in higher net premiums for most households in the individual insurance market instead of the savings promised by Governor Polis:

“Every lawmaker and every citizen in Colorado needs to know the Polis administration’s real track record on health care before the state option is debated in the legislature. Because if history is any guide, when the Polis administration says they’re making the health care system better, they’re actually making it worse and hoping you won’t find out until the damage is already done.”

These observations from Ross, a small-town mayor and small business owner, echo the concerns raised by the broader business community about the public option and the Polis administration’s rush to approve it.

For example, a coalition of state business groups – including the Colorado Association of Realtors, the Colorado Bankers Association, Colorado Concern, Common Sense Policy Roundtable, and the Denver South Economic Development Partnership – sent formal comments to the Polis administration warning of “a significant impact on both the state’s health care system, as well as the entire Colorado economy.” The business coalition continued:

“We encourage the administration to slow down, invite all stakeholders to the table, and work with Coloradans to better understand the true impact of changing the health care marketplace. There are other policy tools that can address fundamental issues that are driving the high costs of healthcare. … Legislating lower prices does not make costs disappear, it simply shifts those costs somewhere else. The impact of this inevitable shift is left unanswered by this proposal and it is of the utmost importance.”

The same business coalition, dubbed the REMI Partnership, conducted a study on the costs of the public option and who would bear them earlier this year. One of the key findings: Employer-provided health insurance would become more expensive in order to cover the unpaid costs of the state-controlled public option.

Likewise, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce warned of hidden costs and other unintended consequences triggered by the public option that would make life harder for employers and their workers, not easier. In formal comments to the Polis administration, the chamber said:

“[W]e oppose mandatory participation in the program for carriers and hospitals because we believe requiring a company to compete in a market (whether based on geography or niche) that they aren’t equipped to serve (whether lacking the expertise or resources) only adds costs and inefficiencies, costing our companies and employees more money. … We appreciate and share your commitment to decreasing health care costs in Colorado but cannot allow our smallest businesses and their employees to continue to be expected to carry the burden of the unintended consequences from regulations like this.”

So, in reality, the Colorado business community is anything but supportive of the rush to pass the public option. But rather than acknowledge reality and address the business community’s serious concerns, the Small Business Majority tried to pretend those concerns didn’t exist.

CLAIM #2: The Small Business Majority represents the interests of small businesses in Colorado

FACT: Upon closer inspection, it turns out the Small Business Majority doesn’t really speak for small businesses in Colorado at all. It is a political organization with a political agenda, not a chamber of commerce or trade association that represents real businesses with real employees and real customers.

The New York Times first sounded the alarm over this group 10 years ago, during the debate over the federal Affordable Care Act. “[T]he Small Business Majority has all the hallmarks of a shadowy interest group, starting with a name that conceals more than it reveals,” the Times reported after the Small Business Majority made similar claims about the business community supporting the Affordable Care Act.

The newspaper’s inquiries revealed The Small Business Majority had no small business members, or small business funders, and instead received grants from a series of “social justice” foundations. Subsequent investigation by Influence Watch, a publication of the free-market Capital Research Center, concluded that the Small Business Majority exists to mislead the public about the real position of the business community in key public policy debates.

During the ACA debate, for example, Small Business Majority “released a number of state polls it claimed demonstrated that the majority of small businesses supported [an employer mandate to provide health insurance], which conflicted with the position of more mainstream business groups,” according to Influence Watch.

Sound familiar? It turns out the Small Business Majority’s playbook hasn’t changed much at all over the past 10 years. The only difference is the group has added a Colorado staffer, Hunter Railey, to write guest columns and put a local face on the political demands of national special interest groups.