According to the survey 18% said that providing competitive healthcare and retirement benefits is their number 1 challenge to keeping good employees. Yet only 44% of the small businesses offered benefit packages.
Businesses with fewer than 25 employees, average employee pay of less than $50,000 and the employer paying at least 50% of the premiums qualified for the tax credits. In 2010, 228,000 small business owners claimed the tax credits (up to 35% of the premium paid by the employer) and the White House gives a low-ball estimate of 360,000 taking advantage of the tax credits in 2011. The actual number for 2011 will end up much higher since small businesses often file for tax deadline extensions, amend their taxes later or take the credits in subsequent years.
But the health care tax credits in Obamacare are only one of the features that will make small business health insurance more affordable. There’s also the requirement that at least 85% of the premiums be used for medical costs or rebates are due. Small business owners will receive $377 million in these rebates this year because of this medical loss ratio provision.
But the GAO report not surprisingly spawned attacks by Obmacare critics. After the report was released, a joint statement by House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves and Sen. Olympia Snowe said “the healthcare reform law is simply bad policy that is holding small businesses back and therefore should be repealed.” The statement continued, “this GAO report confirms that many small firms haven’t claimed the tax credit because it is too complex and its temporary nature didn’t provide a significant solution to their long term compliance problems — a regrettable, but all too foreseeable conclusion.”
But the GAO report said that the tax credits are too small, not that they were confusing, complex, temporary, burdensome or holding anyone back. The critics are making those complaints up.
What the GAO report actually means is that the tax credits should be higher in order to encourage more small businesses to offer healthcare. But one thing cannot be denied. These tax credits under Obamacare have in fact already made health insurance more affordable for hundreds of thousands of small businesses. That was the goal.