The Huffington Post
By: John Arensmeyer
July 3, 2012
In ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act on June 28, the Supreme Court made a mark on history -- a mark that signifies victory for the countless small business owners who've struggled with excessively high health insurance costs for decades.
Prior to the reform law's enactment, our health coverage market was unsustainable -- and for small business owners in particular. Now, more than two years since its passage, nationwide market reforms and other provisions of the Affordable Care Act are already benefiting small businesses and consumers alike. In so doing, they are reinventing what it means to purchase healthcare in America.
It's no news that lack of affordability is the main reason many small business owners don't offer health coverage to their employees. It's not that they don't want to provide it -- we know from our research they do. But unlike big businesses, small firms continue to face premium rates that are unpredictable in nearly every sense -- except for the guarantee that they will always increase.
That's why June 28 was a day for the small business history books. The Supreme Court ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act protects a number of benefits that are helping offset small businesses' costs as they brave the tumultuous health coverage market. Provisions such as rate review and Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) have already resulted in lower premium costs and cash back for small employers. Millions of small businesses in 42 states will get rebates for part of their coverage costs in August because their insurers failed to spend 80 percent of their premium dollars on patient care and quality improvement as required by the MLR rule.
On top of that, the law's health insurance tax credits for small business owners with fewer than 25 full-time employees are helping hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs who offer coverage save money on their health care costs. With those savings, they are reinvesting in their businesses and even creating new jobs. Now that the law's fate is no longer up in the air, eligible small business owners can look forward to 2014 when the maximum amount of the tax credit increases from 35 percent of their premium costs to 50 percent.
At this point, the number of eligible small business owners taking advantage of the credit is not as high as it should be. Our recent opinion poll found more than half of all entrepreneurs do not know they exist, and another recent survey had similar results. With other small business advocates, we are working to inform more eligible small businesses about them.
Also coming in 2014 are the health insurance exchanges, which are required to be set up in every state. These will do even more to curb costs and boost choice for small businesses by giving them an online location to pool their buying power with other employers and negotiate better rates. Entrepreneurs are looking forward to these marketplaces, according to another recent poll of ours, which also found that only a third of small business owners wanted to see the high court overturn the Affordable Care Act.
But luckily for those who wanted to see the law upheld, it was. And it's time to look forward and implement it with small businesses' needs in mind. The moment President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, countless small firms -- from family-run farms in California's Central Valley to Greenwich Village cafés just getting off the ground -- began to see their hopes for more affordable healthcare become reality. Two-plus years later, we're now a step closer to giving these employers what they need. And it also means we're giving would-be entrepreneurs the chance to follow their dreams of owning a business, without worrying about how to get health insurance.