Special Report: Hope for Affordable Health Insurance

Special Report: Hope for Affordable Health Insurance

THE S.C. SMALL BUSINESS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
1717 Gervais Street, Columbia, SC  29201  (803) 252-5733  www.scsbc.org

Yesterday’s historic vote in the U.S. House for health insurance reform sets the country on the path toward affordable health insurance for small businesses.  The victory in the House and the expected successful vote in the U.S. Senate give hope to the 103 thousand small businesses in South Carolina that want to offer health insurance to employees but cannot today or soon would not have been able to afford the premiums.

The consequences of the U.S. House not voting as it did yesterday would have been dire.  Insured employees of small businesses still offering coverage would soon have been joining the ranks of the uninsured (Kitchen-Table Talk on Health Care Reform op-ed on 3-13-10 http://www.scsbc.org/view_press.asp?id=352).

The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce has worked with Representatives James Clyburn, John Spratt and other members of Congress to insure that small businesses would not be harmed as legislation was crafted to achieve our objective of affordable health insurance.

Yesterday’s House vote and the anticipated positive vote in the Senate deliver immediate and future benefits for small businesses.  Plus there are no mandates for small businesses to offer insurance and no tax increases on small business.

Health insurance affordability for small business will come from:

  1. Immediate access to state high-risk pools for sole-proprietors and individuals, who have been denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, and federal subsidies to the states to reduce premium cost.  Effective within 90 days of passage.
  2. Tax credits for approximately 90% of South Carolina’s small businesses, those with fewer that 25 employees, which offer employer-based health insurance.  Effective in 2010.
  3. Reduction of health insurance costs to many small businesses through the expansion of Medicaid to 133% of the poverty level that will enable many low income employees of small businesses to receive health insurance from this federal/state program instead of through their employers.  Effective 2014.
  4. Lower premiums due to the creation of state insurance exchanges consisting of large numbers of individuals and employees of small businesses who will select health insurance policies from numerous companies competing for their business.  These insurance exchanges would include at least two multi-state plans and be required to be used by members of Congress.  Effective in 2014.
  5. Sole proprietors being eligible for premium subsidies through the exchange.  Effective 2014.

In addition to directly benefiting small businesses, here is a timeline on some other health insurance reform benefits:

WITHIN A YEAR


Would provide a $250 rebate to Medicare prescription drug beneficiaries whose initial benefits run out due to the donut hole.

90 DAYS AFTER ENACTMENT

Would provide immediate access to state high-risk pools and subsidized premiums for people with no insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

SIX MONTHS AFTER ENACTMENT

Would bar insurers from denying people coverage when they get sick. Would bar insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Would bar insurers from imposing lifetime caps on coverage. Would require insurers to allow people to stay on their parents’ policies until they turn 26.

2011

Would require insurance companies with individual and small group market plans to spend 80 percent of premium dollars on medical services. Insurance companies with large group plans would have to spend at least 85 percent of premiums on medical services.

2014

Insurance exchanges would be created in each state consisting of large pools of individual and small business employees selecting insurance coverage from many competing health insurance companies.  Would provide subsidies for families earning up to 400 percent of poverty level, currently about $88,000 a year for a family of four, to purchase health insurance. Would require most people to obtain coverage or face penalties.

If you have a question about the reform legislation, call (803) 252-5733 or send an e-mail to sbchamber@scsbc.org.