He told me all about how he began his business and the challenges of being a small business owner when Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl’s and the like are within a short drive. I listened with a sympathetic ear. He continued to talk about his daily challenge to make a livable wage in this establishment that was clearly struggling. It was then that the infamous lines I was so accustomed to hearing in our media rang out of his mouth, “My taxes are killing me!” he stated. He continued with, “Now with this health care law they are going to go up even more!”
I had to step back, take a deep breath and gather my thoughts. I knew from this shop owner’s description of economic struggle, this wasn’t true. However, to him and the perception of many other citizens, it felt very real. I understood that. This fear had to be taken seriously. Like many people in March of 2010, I had grown tired of controversy and debate. I was mostly tired of lack of information, misinformation and media sensationalizing. This encounter was evidence it was taking a real and damaging toll.
Ironically, according to a public opinion quiz conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in February of 2011, 75% of Americans did not know basic pieces of information about the PPACA. Meanwhile, 84% of these people believed they would be harmed by the law.[i] These were also individuals that got their information primarily from cable news outlets, a testament that the main objective of these “news” outlets is to merely entertain for profit motive and not inform and educate us.
It was time to turn down the noise. In a quiet and subdued tone I began to explain all that I knew about the PPACA. I informed him about the Small Business TaxCredits, SHOP (Small Business Exchanges), Basic Patient Protections, MedicalLoss Ratio and Rate Review. Above all however, I could tell I needed to address his real fear, taxes.
It was evident from our dialogue that this gentleman did not make more than $200,000 a year and he would therefore not see any tax increases. In fact, he would see tax credits and subsidies. I explained how it would be paid for with a tax on wealthier Americans who make over $200,000 and not the working and middle class. As I explained how the funding of this bill would work, I could tell from looking at him that he also didn’t appear to be someone who went “tanning”! With that said, I explained how the bill would be funded with a 10%tax on tanning salons. He also didn’t appear to be someone that would be impacted by the excise tax on high-end healthplans, a plan that is often enjoyed by individuals in much higher paying professions. The other revenue sources come from stricter requirements on Health SavingsAccounts and fees on the medical device and drugindustries. Finally, there would be a shared responsibility between employer and employee. Individuals will pay a fine if they violate the individual mandate and employers will pay a $2000 fine if they do not provide health insurance and their employees receive premium tax credits to purchase on the exchanges.
As he packed the last item into my bag, the shop owner held a blank and confused stare on his face. His world had been shaken. As I thanked him for his time and neighborly conversation, his muddled look sank into the pit of my stomach. I had not convinced him. I carried an odd emotion that falls somewhere between anger and sadness. I looked around at the surrounding store fronts and was quickly reminded the time of year. It was lent. Outside the clothing shop I gave up cable news and I have never gone back.