NASE Blogs

House Democrats Eke Out A Victory on Health Reform [Commentary]

Nov 09, 2009

Posted by Kristie Arslan - I am one of those people who like to maintain a healthy work-life balance.  I usually do my best not to bring my work home with me, but not so this weekend.  I spent most of my Saturday watching C-SPAN and subjecting both my husband and eight-month old daughter to the debate in the House of Representatives on health reform.  Talk about cruel and unusual punishment!

The big debate culminated with a late night vote on H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, in which the House Democrats eked out a victory by a margin of 2 votes (220-215, with the Democrats needing 218 votes to win.) What does this mean for the self-employed?  Honestly, nothing just yet. The House vote signals that the first quarter of the health reform game has just concluded and there are still three quarters to go.

The House bill is important because it sets the stage for what might be in a final reform bill.  Unfortunately, the legislation doesn't do much to help the self-employed and micro-business get immediate relief from high health costs. The only quantifiable item providing bottom line cost relief to small businesses in H.R. 3962 is a tax credit. Unfortunately, this credit does not begin until 2013, leaving the self-employed to sweat it out for another three years.

Additionally, the credit is ONLY available to assist those who decide to purchase health coverage through the new Exchange or health marketplace the bill creates. Thus, micro-businesses who like the insurance they have but need financial assistance will have to drop their current coverage and find new insurance in the Exchange to obtain the tax credit. 

The Affordable Health Care for America Act includes the contentious "public option," providing for a government-run health insurance plan while also mandating that all Americans must purchase coverage and employers with over $500,000 in payroll must provide group coverage to their workers. 

In this difficult economic time, reform should make accessing health coverage easier and more affordable for small business. It seems the legislation passed by the House will likely make it more difficult, and worse, more costly for our nation's entrepreneurs to obtain health coverage.

The ball is now in the Senate's court, where it will be much more challenging for the majority party to gain passage of a health reform bill. The bills in the Senate are equally devoid of cost-saving measures for the self-employed.  We still have a chance to craft a reform bill in the Senate that will actually help micro-businesses.  The goal now is to get all of you entrepreneurs out there to contact your Senators and tell them that when it comes to health reform, they must start paying attention to the needs of our nation's 22 million self-employed Americans.