Op-Eds

Notes from Brett: Bipartisan coalition working for small businesses

Washington, DC, June 17, 2015
At the beginning of 2016 – in less than six months – states will be forced to change the definition of "small group market" from 1-50 employees to 1-100 employees as a result of Obamacare. Employers with 51-100 employees will not be able to keep their existing health care plans or purchase and renew plans that do not conform to a substantial number of additional regulations.

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy.  When Main Street does well, so do American families.  But if we don’t fix the next round of Obamacare regulations before they take effect, small businesses will be forced into larger group insurance markets that have dramatically different rates, which means business owners, employees and their families will be the ones on the hook for the increased costs that result.

My father built a small manufacturing business in Bowling Green.  I worked alongside him and saw first-hand the challenges small business owners face.  These challenges are amplified when the economy remains sluggish and the labor market shrinks.  When you factor in rising health care costs, it’s nearly impossible to plan for the future and grow your business.

At the beginning of 2016 – in less than six months – states will be forced to change the definition of “small group market” from 1-50 employees to 1-100 employees as a result of Obamacare.  Employers with 51-100 employees will not be able to keep their existing health care plans or purchase and renew plans that do not conform to a substantial number of additional regulations. 

In response to this looming change, I led a bipartisan group of lawmakers in March in introducing H.R. 1624, the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act.  H.R. 1624 will maintain the current definition of small group market, permanently defining it as 1-50 employees.   Delaying the provision, as some have proposed, doesn’t fix this bad policy – H.R. 1624 does.

If we do nothing and the definition of the small group marketplace is expanded as a result of Obamacare, consumer choice will be greatly limited and instability will ripple through the insurance market as even more control of insurance regulation shifts from states to the federal government.  An Oliver Wyman study estimates that two-thirds of individuals in the small group market would face an average premium increase of 18 percent in 2016 if this burdensome regulation is not fixed.

Defining the size of a small or large group market has largely been left to the states up to this point.  Today, most states define a small employer as having 1-50 employees.  For those states that have a different definition of a small group market, H.R. 1624 will not alter that threshold, but instead simply eliminate the Obamacare mandate that forces states to include employers with up to 100 employees, putting more regulatory power back into the hands of our states.

H.R. 1624 currently has more than 100 cosponsors in the House and has a Senate companion bill (S. 1099).  As we wait for the Supreme Court to issue their ruling in King v. Burwell, I am hopeful that H.R. 1624 will be part of a legislative solution to address the growing concerns of small business owners, employees and families. 

Everyone deserves access to quality and affordable health care, and H.R. 1624 will ensure that the existing insurance options for small group markets across the country remain available.