Quincy News

Small-business lobbyist says Obamacare changes likely later this year

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 4, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Apr. 5, 2017 10:07 pm

QUINCY -- Members of Congress continue to work on health care reforms and could be ready to tweak or replace parts of the Affordable Care Act as soon as May.

Kevin Kuhlman, the National Federation of Independent Business director of legislative affairs in Washington D.C., told local business leaders and health care officials about the latest developments Wednesday at Spring Lake Country Club.

House Speaker Paul Ryan had to withdraw a Republican plan to replace the ACA, often called Obamacare, last month. The Associated Press reports that Ryan, White House officials and members of the U.S. Senate continue to look for a plan that has the votes to pass.

Kuhlman said Obamacare, signed into law March 23, 2010, has not made health care coverage affordable.

"Between 2014 and 2016 we have statistics on small businesses in Adams County that show employee-only (insurance) coverage went up 13 percent and family plans went up 11 percent," he said.

Another promise of the Affordable Care Act was that it would boost the number of businesses that offered insurance. Incentives and penalties were put in the law but have not worked as expected.

"In 2010, 41 percent of small businesses in the nation offered health insurance to employees. By 2015 that was down to 29 percent," Kuhlman said.

During the past seven years, most insurance policies have become high-deductible plans where individuals or families often must pay several thousand dollars for health care before insurance companies take over payments.

"All health insurance is becoming high-deductible insurance," Kuhlman said.

To address that, many businesses are offering health savings account plans that allow employees to set aside up to $5,000 a year. The HSAs can then be tapped to cover deductibles.

"The House legislation that was discussed last month would have raised the maximum HSA contribution to $8,000 per individual," Kuhlman said.

The Small Business Health Fairness Act of 2017, which was approved in the House last month, also would establish association health plans that could be offered nationwide through professional groups and agencies such as the Chamber of Commerce. Small businesses could buy coverage through the associations to get some of the benefits of having large pools of workers.

Kuhlman said changes also are coming to Obamacare even if Congress does not act. Insurance companies will announce in June what their rates will be next year. The sign-up period for 2018 also is being cut in half. It will run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. Sign-ups had gone on for three months, but some people were gaming the system by signing up in January after experiencing health issues. There also have been problems with some customers signing up for insurance after open enrollments end for a year.

Kuhlman believes Congress will eventually make some changes to the health care law, but so far there are more rumors than details on what bill will look like.

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