Washington Watch - March 24, 2010

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Washington Watch - March 24, 2010

New Health Laws, New Political Targets

Congressional Democrats and the White House are breathing a collective sigh of relief since the health reform package has been signed into law. Now lawmakers will use the legislation as ammunition leading up to the mid-term elections this November.

GOP leaders are mounting aggressive anti-reform campaigns in the home districts of vulnerable Democrats, hoping to build upon negative reactions to and public sentiment against the bill. Conservative groups have also promised to lend man power to defeat policymakers who voted for reform. After shouting matches held at public town halls last year, along with growing support of Tea Party protests, the Republicans will work to continue to mobilization of their grassroots efforts.

Democrats, backed by the White House, have begun their own campaigns to highlight the short-term benefits of the reform bill for individuals and families. Scores of progressive groups have stepped forward to run ads thanking members of Congress who voted in favor of reform. Democrats also have the case study of George W. Bush's rollout of the Medicare Part D program, which eventually drew support among seniors.

Nuts & Bolts Of Health Care For Small Biz

Throughout the health reform process this past year, a large number of small business organizations expressed their dissatisfaction and/or their outright opposition to the final health reform bill. In a recent survey conducted by the NASE, three in five micro-business owners indicated that they did not support the final reform proposal. Their chief concerns about the legislation was that it allowed too much government intervention in health care and it would be too costly for our nation.

Despite apprehension about whether the final health reform law will lower the cost of coverage in the long-term, there are some items of benefit for the small business community.  Tax credits will be offered to assist with premium costs, which will benefit many business owners. For those with fewer than 25 employees and average annual wages of less than $50,000 that purchase group health coverage for their workers, they will be eligible for a tax credit of up to 35% for tax years 2010 through 2013. Small business owners must contribute at least 50% of the total premium cost for workers to qualify. The credit will be increases in subsequent years once the new health marketplaces, known as Exchanges, are created in 2014. 

Unfortunately, for the self-employed assistance with affordability of coverage has some serious limitations. The self-employed will get a tax credit if they fall within certain income requirements. Individuals making below $43,320 or a family of four with an income below $88,200 would qualify for the credit. However, while small businesses get immediate assistance, the self-employed must wait until 2014. With health care costs rising every year, the self-employed need immediate assistance with affording coverage. Additionally, the only way to access the tax credit is if a self-employed business owner drops the insurance they have and buys coverage in the newly created state-based Exchanges. This requirement makes it impossible for the self-employed to keep the coverage they have if they like AND get assistance with affordability.

On a positive note, many insurance market reforms will kick in immediately.  Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to children with preexisting conditions and also, children will be permitted to remain on parents’ policies until age 26. Within six months, insurance companies are prohibited from putting lifetime limits on dollar value of coverage and rescinding coverage except in cases of fraud. In 2014, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to anyone due to their health status or a preexisting condition. A very important market reform for the self-employed who purchase coverage in the individual insurance market and are subject to underwriting.

Read more bill analysis by Kristie Arslan, NASE Executive Director on the Staff Blog.

Health Reform: Who's Saying What

Here is a list of how various news outlets are covering health reform this week:

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