Results from the annual National Federation of Independent Business member ballot in Montana, released in January, show a deep wariness of further involvement from the state into the No. 1 issue facing entrepreneurs: health care.
Asked if the Legislature should make it a law for employers to pay for health coverage to employees, 94 percent of survey respondents said no, 4 percent said yes, and 2 percent were undecided, NFIB said.
A no response led to a follow-up question: Should the state require employers to pay into a state system to cover their uninsured workers. Only 4 percent supported that idea, and 7 percent were undecided, but 89 percent said no.
A third question on health care — should the Legislature place a moratorium on new health insurance policy mandates and forbid the expansion of existing mandates? — drew a 58 percent yes response, with 24 percent saying no and 18 percent undecided.
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Rounding out the six-question poll, 92 percent said the Legislature should not increase or broaden unemployment benefits. Fifty-four percent would support legislation providing tax incentives and public monies to businesses in order to promote economic development and job growth, while 36 percent opposed it, according to NFIB.
"For the past 20 years, health care has been the top issue for small-business owners across the nation," said Riley Johnson, NFIB's director in Montana, "and for good a reason: Less than half of them can afford it for their employees, while almost all bigger companies can. They want to provide it but can't afford the double-digit increases in premiums every year. Having the state force them to provide medical coverage would only exacerbate the problem and possibly lead to many having to shutter their businesses.
"While much of the corrective to this imbalance between a small business' ability to provide health care for its workers and a large corporation's lies in Washington, D.C., states can help by giving health insurers the ability to offer lower-cost plans better tailored to the needs of individuals, and they can stop larding up existing laws with more mandated requirements. Unfortunately, some lawmakers think you can wave a magic wand over this issue."
NFIB annually polls its members on the issues vital to their survival as small-business owners. Results from the poll become the official lobbying position of NFIB.