The next Obamacare change? Larger small businesses ask HHS to delay expansion of small group market

The small group market for health insurance is so bad that larger small businesses don’t want to go there.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 17 trade associations have asked the Department of Health and Human Services to delay moving businesses with 51 to 99 employees from the large group market to the small group market in 2016. That’s the year the Affordable Care Act called for this change to be made, and the year businesses of these size were supposed to be eligible to purchase insurance through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) insurance exchanges. Continue reading

Don’t Forget About the Small Business Healthcare Tax Credit

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

Originally featured in The Huffington Post:

With tax day rapidly approaching, small business owners still have a chance to cash in on a health care reform provision reserved just for them: health care tax credits. The Affordable Care Act was designed to address one of small business owners’ most serious problems — a lack of access to affordable coverage. Since its enactment, employers across the country have been able to claim the credit and reinvest in their business. Nan Warshaw, owner of Bloodshoot Records in Chicago, Illinois, is one of them.

Nan was able to save nearly $6,000 with the Affordable Care Act’s small business tax credit in 2010, helping offset her group coverage cost. “We’re still filing our 2011 returns, but we anticipate saving nearly that amount again,” she said. “With us paying the full contributions for our employees’ insurance, it really is a relief to get some help with those costs — and this is certainly the first time we’ve been financially rewarded for looking out for their wellbeing.”

Nan is one of hundreds of thousands of employers already seeing her health care costs decrease with the help of the tax credits. According to national opinion polling we released in 2011, one-third of small business owners who currently don’t offer health coverage are more likely to start doing so because of them, and 33 percent of employers already offering it said they’re more likely to continue doing so.

Currently, businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees who pay at least 50 percent of total premiums are eligible for a credit of up to 35 percent of their premium contribution. In 2014, that will jump to 50 percent. For a rough estimate of how much your business could save, check out Small Business Majority’s tax credit calculator.

In this tough economy small business owners are struggling to compete, and in some cases, just keep their doors open. Like some of the law’s other key components, the tax credits are intended to boost entrepreneurs’ bottom lines, bettering their chances of offering quality coverage. Some use it to become more competitive by bulking up benefits packages, while others purchase new equipment. Still others put it toward their employees’ share of premiums.

For Ron Nelsen, owner of Pioneer Overhead Door in Las Vegas, Nevada, the credit eased worries that group costs might spiral so far out of control that he’d be robbed of his commitment to offering insurance. “When I heard about the new health care law, I was relieved something was finally being done to help entrepreneurs like me,” he said. “In 2010, I got back $2,235 just for offering insurance to deserving employees. And this year, I received even more. Most importantly, I’m not thinking about having to tell the guys they’re on their own when it comes to health insurance.”

Nationally, 309,000 small businesses saved money through this provision in 2010. An even larger number should benefit this year. And research shows the uptake could be even greater. Our opinion poll found 57 percent of small business owners do not know about the tax credits. It’s time to change that. To help them, we must get the word out and do everything we can to make sure this important provision is taken advantage of. In this economy, every little bit helps.

Expanding and Simplifying Healthcare Tax Credit for Small Businesses Will Help Rein in Coverage Costs

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

Released February 16, 2012:

I joined Administrator Karen Mills, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, and a Michigan small business owner on a tele-press conference today to discuss the expansion and simplification of the small business healthcare tax credit in the Affordable Care Act.

Since its enactment nearly two years ago, the Affordable Care Act has already helped many small business owners better afford health coverage. The healthcare tax credits have played an important role. However, the credit could be made even more robust—which is what the president proposed as part of his 2013 budget.

Already, the small business tax credits are helping thousands of small businesses better afford health insurance. Last year, we released national opinion polling that found one-third of small business owners who currently don’t offer insurance would be more likely to do so because of these credits.

Improving this provision will let more small businesses take advantage of an important tool to help rein in healthcare costs. What’s good for small business is good for the economy. Expanding the tax credit would save more small businesses money, which will do even more to stimulate our economic recovery.

Michigan’s Mark Hodesh, owner of 100-year-old Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor, is one of many owners whose business has already grown thanks to savings from the credit. “I’ve offered my 11 employees health insurance for a long time in order to attract and retain talent. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I’m now being rewarded for doing so,” he said.

In 2010, Hodesh saved almost $9,000 with the credit—nearly 30 percent of his total premium contribution. “Knowing that I was getting the credit gave me the confidence I needed to hire a 12th employee, who turned out to be a big asset to my store. Previously unemployed, she’s also now an asset to the local economy as a taxpayer and consumer.” This year, Hodesh could qualify to receive about $9,800 if Congress adopts the expanded credit.

The healthcare tax credits were designed to ease the burden of small businesses’ skyrocketing healthcare costs so these firms can grow and hire. Unfortunately, our polling found 57 percent of small business owners do not know the credits exist. And from speaking with entrepreneurs and CPAs across the country, we’ve found that some small employers—although they might qualify for the credit—think it’s too complicated and bypass it entirely. The president’s budget would change that.

To view Small Business Majority’s economic and opinion research on healthcare reform’s impact on small businesses, visit our website: http://smallbusinessmajority.org/small-business-research/healthcare/index.php

MATS Rule Can Create Opportunities for Small Businesses

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

Statement by John Arensmeyer on February 16, 2012:

The Environmental Protection Agency today published in the Federal Register its final rule requiring power companies to clean up or close their dirtiest plants—a rule supported by small business owners across the political spectrum, and one that will create much-needed jobs.

National polling we conducted found 76 percent of small employers support the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, refineries and other major emitters. Additionally, 79 percent of small business owners support having clean air and water in their community and 61 percent support standards that move the country towards energy efficiency and clean energy.

A recent report by the Political Economy Research Institute found this new rule—called the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS)—is part of a suite of clean-air standards that will create 1.4 million new jobs over the next five years.

Despite strong support for these standards and their projected economic benefits, some have claimed they will actually stifle job growth. That opposition is misguided. The job market will not suffer from the new rules, and saying that it would is an exercise in political rhetoric that ignores a wide body of research indicating otherwise.

We are pleased to see lawmakers considering small business owners’ views on this issue and working to meet their needs.

President’s Budget Focuses on Small Businesses’ Top Concerns

John Arensmeyer

John Arensmeyer

Statement by John Arensmeyer on February 13, 2012:

The budget proposal President Obama released today keeps the spotlight trained on small businesses’ key concerns: enhancing access to credit, investing in job-creating infrastructure projects and boosting small business provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

These issues are major areas of concern for small businesses, and we’re glad the president is looking to address them in his long-term plan. Opinion polling we recently released found 90 percent of small businesses say access to credit is a problem and the same percentage support making it easier for community banks and credit unions to lend more. Additionally, more than two-thirds support investing in infrastructure projects.

We’re especially pleased to see a proposal to expand and simplify the small business tax credit in the healthcare law. We know from our polling and from talking to countless small business owners across the country that many small employers don’t know this provision to help them afford insurance for their employees exists. Some say it’s too complicated to use and bypass it entirely. Expanding and simplifying the credit so more small business owners can take advantage of it is exactly what small businesses have been asking for to help combat ever-rising premium costs.

We also know from our polling that reining in the deficit is important for small business owners, but the only way to close the gap is to get the economy back on track. The president’s plan recognizes the need to do both.