Washington Report

Tax credits; healthcare; consumer protection

Hearing Examines Healthcare Reform and Small Business

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The numbers are frightening. Healthcare costs for small businesses have been growing four times faster than the rate of inflation since 2001, said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D.-Louisiana) at a small business committee hearing to examine how the healthcare reform proposals currently being considered on Capitol Hill will help these enterprises. The cost of individual policies has increased by 74% in the last eight years and in 2018, small businesses are estimated to lose $178,000 because of the high cost of healthcare.

Where’s the relief?

Despite ongoing debate in the House over a public option, both Small Business Administration chief Karen Mills and Treasury Secretary counselor Gene Sperling supported an insurance exchange so businesses can pool risk and spread costs.

Sperling also praised a provision to expand entry into the exchange beyond the very smallest businesses, though the actual size is yet to be determined. “I also like the fact that once you’re in, you don’t go out,” Sperling said, adding that this will allow businesses to remain in the exchange as they grow and create jobs.

Responding to critics who question whether tax credits will increase coverage, Sperling said that increasing coverage is just one goal and small businesses that have offered coverage despite challenges should be rewarded. He also believes tax incentives might encourage some small businesses to start offering coverage.

Amanda Austin, representing the National Federation of Independent Business, said that an exchange based on provisions in the Small Business Health Options Program Act of 2009 “will allow for individual choice of plans and help provide a human resources function, something that small employers currently lack.” She also said that tax credits should be a short-term investment while Congress addresses overall affordability problems that plague the nation’s healthcare system.

To view the hearing, click here.

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