Washington Watch - August 5, 2009

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Washington Watch - August 5, 2009

House Passes Short-Term SBA Reauthorization

The House recently passed a bill by voice vote for a short term reauthorization of the Small Business Administration (SBA) a few days after the measure was cleared by the Senate.

The bill, sponsored by Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and cosponsored by Committee Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), would provide for an additional temporary extension of the SBA through September 30th.

The bill, S. 1513, has been submitted to President Barack Obama. The latest short-term reauthorization of the SBA expired July 31st (PL 111-10).

Self-Employed Proposals MIA in Health Reform Bills

The NASE recently spoke out on current health care reform legislation, which is notably missing two items that would have a substantial effect on the affordability of coverage for the self-employed. The NASE has spoken out strongly in the past about allowing the self-employed to deduct their health care costs as a business expense and improving HRAs to allow the self-employed business owner to participate in the plan. Unfortunately, neither provision has been included nor offered as amendment to the current larger health reform bills.

"You would think," said NASE executive director Kristie Arslan, "that with so many Americans taking care of their families and creating jobs through self-employment, Congress would be certain to pay more attention to the needs of this growing demographic. Unfortunately, that is not the case, especially when it comes to health reform."

Earlier this year, legislation was introduced in the House (H.R. 1470) and Senate (S.725) to allow the deductibility of health costs. The idea of opening eligibility for HRAs has been briefly entertained by legislators, since it would likely significantly increase the number of owners who could offer assistance on health costs for themselves and their employees.

"Regrettably, expansion of Health Reimbursement Arrangements is not on the radar screen of policymakers on the Hill," Arslan remarked. "In fact, we have heard rumblings that Senate Finance may actually want to take away the tax deductibility associated with HRAs in order to help finance their health reform proposal."

To read Arslan's entire analysis, visit the NASE Staff Blog.

House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Urges Revisions To Health Reform Bill

House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) recently wrote an open letter to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Health Subcommittee, regarding the current draft of health care reform legislation.

“For entrepreneurs, many of which are already struggling with skyrocketing premiums, reform holds the promise to rein in runaway health care costs, providing badly needed relief….However, given the enormous economic pressures small businesses are currently enduring, we must be careful that the final legislative product does not unduly burden them,” wrote Rep. Velazquez.

Rep. Velazquez recommended a number of changes to several provisions of the legislation, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200), to avoid adverse effects on small firms. These recommendations included:

  • Measuring the ability of small firms to contribute to health care costs for their employees based on a combination of average gross revenue and an industry classification system, similar to the way the Small Business Administration currently determines eligibility for programs, instead of by payroll size.
  • Expanding guaranteed access into the new Health Insurance Exchange that will be established by the legislation beyond the current limit of firms with 20 or fewer employees, as excluding firms from the exchange will leave them with fewer choices for affordable coverage and little incentive to offer coverage.
  • Continuing to identify ways to give small businesses more options in purchasing insurance, such as allowing small firms to create cooperatives or otherwise pool risk to they can secure affordable, accessible coverage.

To read the full text of Rep. Velazquez’s letter, click here.

Small Biz Health Care Roundup

Here's a sampling of this week's top health care reform articles in relation to small businesses:


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