Small businesses should worry as Obama administration fills in details of health-care law

The reality of the debate over the new health-care law is that no one can be sure what will happen for years. The full force of the law won’t be felt until 2013.

The Obama administration, though, filled in some of the fine print this week, and small businesses should not be happy.

The administration offered rules for how health-care plans could stay exempt from the new law. Basically, plans stand to lose their “grandfathered” status if they raise costs too much.

That may sound nice, but that threat could be the first step on a slippery slope that ends with businesses dumping health plans. If businesses can’t keep their existing plans, they will have to pay more for coverage that meets the law’s new regulations.

Not surprisingly, groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Federation of Independent Business criticized the administration’s rules this week.

The president and lawmakers should heed their warnings. Small businesses are the backbone of the health-insurance system. If they find themselves unable to offer health coverage, that system (as we know it) will crumble.