…The Senate passed a massive healthcare reform bill Dec. 24 that will determine how your business will grow, or not grow, for years to come. We vigorously opposed the bill for three reasons. First, it doesn’t make health insurance more accessible or affordable for small business. Second, with its new taxes, fees and government regulation, it increases the overall costs of doing business for small businesses. Third, rather than leveling the playing field for all employers, the Senate bill lays those new costs and burdens almost entirely at the feet of small, rather than big, business.
Despite near-unanimous opposition from NFIB and some of the oldest and best-known small business advocacy groups, the bill is being portrayed as exactly what small business has been asking for. A quick review of just a few of the most egregious provisions leaves one wondering: Would small business really ask for a bill that:
1) Levies a new health insurance tax of $6.7 billion on health insurance – specifically, individual and small group plans in the fully insured market, where 87 percent of small businesses purchasing insurance buy coverage?
2) Specifically mandates construction companies to provide coverage or pay penalties if they have more than five employees and a payroll that exceeds $250,000?
3) Enacts a destructive employer mandate on any other industry that manages, in this environment, to actually grow to 50 employees, knowing that will result in a reduction of full-time workers to part-time workers and discourage new hiring?
4) Adds an onerous new IRS paperwork reporting requirement on nearly every business transaction over $600 annually?
5) Prohibits HSA, HRA and FSA funds from being used to purchase over-the-counter medication?
6) Replaces a 5 percent “botax” on cosmetic surgery with a 10 percent tax on indoor tanning services, an industry that is mostly made up of small, independent shops and salons?
As more and more comes out about the Senate bill, it’s astonishing that anyone could try to say with a straight face that this bill was about helping small business! Because for all the lip service about small business, it’s pretty clear that their needs were traded away when Congress put politics before policy and provided political protection, payback and favoritism to its most favored friends – big business and big labor.
Small business did win some concessions. We secured some improvements on tax credits for small businesses, insurance market reforms and the creation of a national benefit plan. However, given how some of these reforms are structured, much work still needs to be done before they can be labeled as meaningful and sustainable options for America’s small business community.
The bill now must be reconciled with the House version before final passage. But the bottom line is this: If reform doesn’t make health insurance more affordable, then it’s not the reform small business needs. And by all accounting so far, it’s most definitely not the reform they can afford.