May 2, 2011
By Frank Knapp Jr.
After decades of escalating group health insurance premiums and demands for Congressional action for relief, a little over one year ago many of our small businesses finally were given the opportunity for federal health insurance tax credits.
Now H.R. 3, up for a vote this week, threatens to erase this benefit for small businesses because it would eliminate the health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for any existing or new plans that provide coverage for abortion.
The problems H.R. 3 would cause for small businesses that are trying to do the right thing and offer health insurance have nothing to do with the ideological intent of this bill. Even if a small business owner agrees with the intent, the cost of passage of H.R. 3 in terms of time, money and continuity of policy is very significant.
Small business owners do not have the expertise to closely examine healthcare plans to determine if abortion coverage is included. Such services are not labeled “abortion” but rather fall into numerous clauses in a health care policy from prescription drugs to outpatient surgery to maternity care that includes unforeseen complications. Small business owners are no more prepared to completely understand the fine print of their health insurance policies than members of Congress.
Requiring a small business owner to try to understand the intricacies of their health insurance policies would require considerable time on their own or with an insurance agent (who also probably has no idea how to interpret the verbiage in the policy as it relates to abortion). Essentially H.R. 3 will cause a small employer to divert time from running the business. And if time is money, as we are all told, then H.R. 3 will be an increase in cost for small businesses offering health insurance.
Small businesses that finally determine that their health insurance policy does in fact cover even one abortion service will be financially punished in one of two ways. Either they can keep their present policy and lose thousands of dollars in hard won tax credits or they will give up their current health plan and most likely have to pay higher premiums for a new plan. The latter will result from both re-underwriting by a new carrier and adding provisions now required in any new policy. This is especially true since the health insurance exchanges will not be in place until 2014 to increase competition for this business.
H.R. 3 is simply a slap in the face to the millions of small businesses now offering health insurance to employees and eligible for the new tax credits. Targeting small businesses for such punitive action, while ignoring big businesses that also receive tax benefits when offering health insurance, demonstrates a callous disregard for the “backbone of our economy”, as members of Congress love to proclaim.
Mr. Knapp is the President and CEO of The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.