Scott Elmore: Quitting NFIB over SB200

A regular reader of these pages, Scott Elmore, has abandoned his company's many-year affiliation with the National Federation of Independent Business over that group's support of Colorado's SB200 which would set up a government-run (or at least quasi-government-run) health care "exchange" in our state. Many opponents of the bill, including me, believe it plays into the hands of the health care fascists (and I use that term in its literal economic sense, not as hypberbole) who support Obamacare. Here's Scott's note on the subject:

I don't claim this to be a literary masterpiece, but it is factual and from the heart:

I recently took an incredibly hard-nosed stance against the National Federation of Independent Business, AND our State director. I went so far as to remove my family's decades long membership from the member rolls of NFIB. Although I was angry, it was not a decision I made lightly.

The straw that broke my back was the NFIB getting behind the Republican House Majority Leader backed, “SB 11-200”. Rep. Amy Stephens, a purported Republican, spent a good deal of her time enjoying her media spotlight; but one interview caught my ear on KLZ's “Grassroots Radio Colorado,” where she defended her support of the bill with an argument that was akin to, “Colorado workers need relief from their employers choosing their health plan. My support of this bill is because it will relieve workers from the burden of their employer choosing their health plan, and give them options”. I don't claim that to be an exact quote, but it certainly was her premise. Just for fun, let's stop there, for a minute.

As a small business owner, my family business has a mere 17 employees. 20 if you consider myself and my parents. Not ONE of my employees is “enslaved” to the small group health plan I have chosen. Every one of them has the option of not participating. What Rep. Stephens carefully worded argument leaves out, is that IF my employees make that choice...I DON'T HAVE TO PAY FOR IT! Our contribution to our employee's healthcare is a voluntary benefit that we provide to attract and retain the best employees that we can. Interestingly enough, in an industry where the average tenure is 3-5 years, in our 38 years of business we've had two folks retire with 25+ years of service, and I just celebrated the 20th anniversary of another employee with lunch at a great local restaurant. Our current average tenure is roughly 10 years. My employees are not “stuck”, they are very happy to have the benefits that they have. For the record, until last year, I paid 75% of employee AND all dependent's healthcare. Last year, I had to dial it back to 60%, and my staff was grateful that I didn't undue paying for their families. (My industry standard is to pay for employee only). This cost to my business is second only to payroll, and averages somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000 a year for the aforementioned employees and their families.

It is an absolute insult to me as an employer that Rep. Stephens would (seemingly knowingly) employ the “poor worker” tactic as a selling point for her faulty pet legislation. My staff has already realized the “benefit” (sarcasm added) of Government intervention in health care. They are thankful, and incredibly aware of the garbage legislation that they fear will screw up the good deal that they currently have.

It was a MUCH bigger insult that NFIB would jump on her bandwagon. State Director Tony Gagliardi was slow to respond, but after he let his comments soak through the weekend news (with no challenge), he did finally respond to me privately with the usual talking points and rhetoric. To understand where I'm coming from, and why I kicked NFIB to the curb, let's take a look at NFIB's ambiguous back and forth record on small business healthcare in Colorado, if for nothing else, just for fun...because the contradictions actually are humorous, unless you're in my position, then they are just depressing.

I will admit, I was in high-school then, and I can only provide anecdotal evidence from my hardcore NFIB involvement from 2002-2006, but it was clear to me that, NFIB members, following the, “Leadership” of the NFIB in Colorado, pushed HARD for HB 94-1210. This is my often quoted mandate bill, which “entitled” small group members in Colorado to a vast array of mandated health care treatments, including, but not limited to, free prostate exams, free mammograms, free pre-natal care, etc. Small business was REALLY excited about this. In fact, according to ,
“Between 1994 and 1998, Colorado’s small group market increased from 25,381 groups and 413,643 covered lives to 71,126 groups and 536,367 covered lives.” Take a look at the number of groups, vs. the number of covered lives...could this mandate have caused a huge amount of sick people to jump into the small group pool? Well, let's look at some more numbers, again provided by our State report:, “By 2003, the number of groups dipped to 50,826 and the covered lives decreased to 392,538.”

Well Golly Gee, why in the world would that happen? Here's why, according to Colorado Health Institute, “Small group health insurance premiums increased an average of 84 percent between
1996 and 2002.” Well, of course they did. We guaranteed coverage, and new additional coverage to LOTS of sick people, and they jumped in the pool and raised costs! What happened next? Can I say, duh? Of course it costs more to insure and guarantee coverage for lots of sick people, and people seeking tests that they don't need! Additionally, a bunch of small group members, my staff included, got drunk on the idea that everything just cost a co-pay, and the rest is “free”. The idea of personal responsibility, or intelligent personal health care decisions disappeared.

What happened next, is "I" got involved. I don't mean me personally, (although I did)...but there were a BUNCH of other “I's” that got involved too. We got downright pissed.

We rallied (initially under the NFIB banner) to reform Small Group Healthcare in Colorado. We sat in a major meeting in Pueblo at a hotel, listening to a panel of healthcare providers speak. They said they couldn't do what we wanted, because of the mandates on them. I stood up and said, “Then let's change that!” (The mandates, that is)

A LOT of other people joined me in that thought.

However, apparently NFIB didn't like what our membership had to say, nor what our leadership council said, because this became one of the most contentious issues ever between me and my good friend Tim Jackson, who was then the state director for NFIB. It only takes a simple google search to see that we butted heads on this issue in 2002 and 2003...ultimately, a compromise was reached, and NFIB and myself stood up and supported HB 03-1164 , which was passed, with the help of a lot of good legislators, and signed by Gov. Owens into legislation. I was blessed to be asked by the former Governor to speak at the press conference when he signed the bill.

For MANY in the small group market in Colorado, our rates went down almost instantaneously (according to the provisions of the bill) by 25% in our next renewal, This incredible reduction in rate (compared to our 14-40% increases under the ridiculous state mandates) continued for a number of years. Unfortunately, political power shifted, as did the stance of NFIB.

In 2006 and 2007, Mr. Gagliardi, surely following his handlers, supported a complete undoing of my, and other small business owner's cost saving reforms when he supported HB 07-1355. The result of this bad legislation was a staggered, or tiered, increase in my small group's discount from 2008-2010. This is probably where NFIB lost me. I still paid our dues, but for an organization that I AM A PAYING MEMBER of to take my health care premiums and pretty much single handedly increase them by 25% over three years...DOH! You guys (NFIB) lost me.

Take all of the above facts, and tie them in to NFIB Colorado’s support of SB 200? Holy cow! What am I paying my small business lobby for? My employees do not need protected from me. My business does not need the government's help! We need the government to get out of the way, like they did after we passed HB 03-1164. Of course coverage went down...people had to start to take personal responsibility for their health care.

I've got a family obligation out of the country for a bit over a week starting Saturday morning. Don't let that appear that I'm avoiding any argument that comes forth; I welcome it. I probably left some stuff out, and may have emotionally overplayed some...but my facts are facts, and I'll gladly address any argument that comes after I get home.

Suffice it to say, my folks don't want YOU Rep. Stephens messing with what they have. I don't want you screwing up what my family has.

NFIB Colorado, since our reforms of 2003, has been on a progressive track of screwing up healthcare even more.

Tim W. Jackson is a good guy, and I know him well, and only tagged him here for factual reference. I don't know him well, but I believe Tony Gagliardi to be a good guy, who has his hands tied by NFIB's agenda. NFIB's agenda, coupled with some really screwed up Republican leadership in Colorado, has created this situation.

Take care all, I don't have hard feelings, I just only give my money to people who are looking out for me. NFIB stopped doing that, so I stopped giving them money last week.

Respectfully submitted,

Scott Elmore

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