It is no wonder that the picture for small business remains murky when the regulatory paper blizzard has yet to hit. How the spiraling cost of premiums will be addressed is not altogether clear at this writing. Nevertheless, there are some aspects of the health care reform law that may offer some hope for small businesses.
First, beginning this year, small businesses will be allowed a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, which is worth as much as 35 percent of health insurance premiums. There are a number of restrictions, but the baseline limits this credit to those employers having less than 25 employees; the credit is also restricted based on average wages. While this credit certainly can be helpful to a number of employers, the restrictions on income and employees might make this of marginal use for a number of tech companies.
Another provision, the creation of health care insurance exchanges, holds promise for small businesses. Known as “Small Business Health Options Programs” or SHOP Exchanges, this vehicle could play a large role in the acquisition of health care insurance by small businesses. Similar to legislation CompTIA has previously supported on “Small Business Health Plans,” the SHOP exchanges will enable small businesses to come together to enhance buying power, as well as comparison shop for standardized health packages. Still, there is much uncertainty among small businesses concerning the future of cost containment in health care insurance.
On June 15, CompTIA hosted a panel concerning the effects of health care reform on small businesses. Panelists were Carl Patten, a public policy research and education consultant for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Gloria Sutton, IRS liaison officer for North Florida, and CompTIA member Paul Karch, CEO of Gardant Global. Each panelist emphasized that the advent of health care reform will only be accomplished after the release of thousands of pages of regulations, yet to be written. This regulatory process has only begun, and we do not expect it to move swiftly!
One of the more interesting comments was made by Patten, which in summary was: At this point, no one knows all of the answers concerning health care reform, and if someone claims such knowledge, beware. Certainly, questions will continue to be answered by regulations for a number of years to come.
While there is a blueprint in the form of enacted legislation, it will be some time before we understand the genuine impact of the law on our members. So, for the next few years, we’re taking an active role in the regulatory process to make certain that the final product is suitable for small tech companies.
While the effects of the new law on health insurance acquisition are still in question, panelists agreed that reform would create new business opportunities. Already, there is growing interest and resources being devoted to health information technology and electronic health records through ARRA funding, both of which are being driven by health care reform. New business opportunities may grow out of the health care insurance exchanges and the health information exchanges, as well as claims processing, compliance and HIT.
We’ll stay actively engaged throughout the regulatory process to defend the interest of members and identity potential business opportunities. So, while many questions remain unanswered, the one thing that we do know about health care reform is that it will generate many new business opportunities for our members through HIT, electronic health records, health care insurance and information exchanges.