With the 2012 election season in full swing, and the fate of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act hanging in the air, health-care cost and reform weigh heavy on the minds of small business owners across the country.

The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council released last week its "Health Care Policy Cost Index 2012," which ranks the states and the District of Columbia on public policy measures that impact the costs of health-care and health-insurance coverage.

Ray Keating, chief economist for the SBE Council and index author said costs for small businesses to provide health insurance to workers continue to rise, along with the overall cost of health care in general.

"A big part of these rising costs have to do with unwise and unwarranted government intervention in the health care marketplace," Keating said in a statement. "These government-driven costs don't just come from misguided federal policies, but policies in the states as well."

The policy index ranks the states based on eight different measures, including tax treatment of health savings accounts, various forms of guaranteed issue and community rating regulations, the number of insurance coverage mandates, whether or not states have high-risk pools, and spending on government health programs, according to the SBE Council.

Keating said the more government intervenes in health-care, the higher costs will continue to rise.

"More government programs and spending mean fewer incentives to be concerned about prices and utilization of services. More mandates on insurers inevitably translate into higher insurance costs. And while increased regulation might sound good to many, costs rise as government overrules decisions made in the private, competitive, consumer-centered marketplace," he said. "Unfortunately innovation, competition and affordability are all hurt when government overly intrudes."

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