There are approximately 137,000 small businesses in our great state of New Hampshire. They employ over 304,000 employees – or nearly 50 percent of all New Hampshire employees. Sadly, the small business half of New Hampshire’s employees get mostly ignored in the health insurance debate.

It is no surprise that most large businesses offer employees private health coverage. It is an important benefit when looking for a job and often the reason why some decide to work for one company over another. But small businesses are unable to offer the same level of health coverage as big business employers.

In March, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released a survey revealing that small businesses are facing a substantial affordability crisis in providing health insurance for their employees. According to that survey, “most small business owners find it challenging to manage the cost of offering employer-sponsored health insurance, and almost half have taken a lower profit or suffered a loss to pay for health insurance premium increases over the last five years.”

When coverage is not offered, employees are pushed toward a government-run program such as, Medicaid, or others that are restrictive, have higher deductibles, utilize smaller provider networks, include higher co-pays, etc. Some may make the choice to go without any insurance. A leading cause of bankruptcy in America is medical expenses.

Right now, the growth of Obamacare is being fueled by full-time workers who are self-employed or work in small businesses. These are workers who should have access to affordable, private coverage through their employer.

Small business owners want to provide health coverage. They know it’s important for recruiting and retaining employees. They also care about their employees and their families. They are just asking for a level playing field with big business so they can compete for the best workers available.

Small business is the backbone of the state’s economy and a vital part of the American Dream. New Hampshire is a place where small businesses are encouraged with low taxes, great business resources, and an overall supportive business environment.

So, let’s start thinking about how we can make private coverage more affordable for our small businesses. No one should have to choose between a job they don’t want with quality health insurance and a job they do want that relies on a government-run, safety-net health program.