Laronda Hunter is the owner of five Fantastic Sam’s hair salons in Fort Worth, Texas. She employs between 45 and 48 people annually.
Her profit margins are razor thin, and if she adds a handful of additional employees to get to more than 50, she will have to start providing health insurance under the terms of the Affordable Care Act (ACA aka “ObamaCare”).
The small business owner laid out this scenario for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont during a recent debate on healthcare with fellow Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
Laronda then asked Sanders what she was supposed to do if she hoped to expand her business while the ACA still existed, footnoting the predicament by admitting to Sanders that she did not even have health insurance herself because it was “too expensive and I don’t qualify for the subsidies.”
Hunter is experiencing a common dilemma for SBOs with small margins under the ACA, but in her view, Sanders failed to answer the question.
Laronda recently spoke to conservative Glenn Beck’s The Blaze to discuss the aftermath of Bernie’s answer, which, for background, went like this.
“Let me give you an answer you will not be happy with. I think that for businesses that employ 50 people or more — given the nature of our dysfunctional healthcare system right now where most people do get their health insurance through the places that they work — I’m sorry. I think that in America today, everybody should have healthcare and if you have more than 50 people, you know, I’m afraid to tell you, but I think you will have to provide health insurance.”
The response has been one of the highlights played repeatedly on conservative news shows since Sanders shared it with Hunter that night.
Commenters on some message boards have circulated the idea that Sanders said “maybe you should go out of business” to Laronda, though that is a loose interpretation of the actual comments above.
For Hunter, regardless of the inference, it was not a good answer. In her interview with Beck’s site, Laronda said, “people need to take some responsibility” for their healthcare and that she would be “happy to help” with her employees’ health insurance if her margins were higher.
“Do I think that it’s employers’ responsibility to fully fund everybody’s health care? I don’t…. It’s just completely unreasonable [for employers to pay]. It’s impossible. The numbers don’t work, and so it’s completely stifled my business from growing.”
What’s worse, Hunter said Bernie “completely ignored” her statement about the businesses not making enough profit.
“He completely ignored that. It’s like as if that meant nothing to him,” Laronda added.
— Tré Goins-Phillips (@tregp) February 11, 2017
Hunter may soon get her wish for a move away from the possibility of a single-payer system, but there are still many question marks when it comes to deciphering what comes next for healthcare.
After Donald Trump became President with the promise to repeal and replace the controversial law, he found himself with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress to help make it happen.
The first Executive Order Trump signed on the evening of his Jan. 20 inauguration directed agencies to cease enforcement of new and existing regulations that would be required for ACA to operate properly.
That said, there is still no repeal and no clear idea of what the GOP will do next.
But what do you think, readers?
Do concerns like those expressed by small business owners like Laronda Hunter resonate? Sound off in the comments section below.