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The health care bill (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) was basically crafted behind White House closed doors. Then, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed it with her now famous statement that, “it’s good and we need to pass it so we can find out what’s in it!” On the Senate side, Harry Reid proclaimed it would reduce health care costs, although he hadn’t read it, either. They were right and wrong – right that it passed so we could find out what’s in it, and dead wrong about lower costs.

So far, the promised declines in costs haven’t materialized. Moreover, no one in his right mind is betting they will, especially if you have a small business like a dealership, service firm, marina or small manufacturer. That’s because when they looked inside the health care bill the uncovered the HIT (health insurance tax).

In essence, the health care law will impose an estimated $87 billion HIT on health insurers beginning in 2014. The purpose of the HIT is simply to offset other costs in the law. It doesn’t take a master’s degree to predict the HIT will be reflected in higher premiums for health insurance and will, therefore, be borne by small businesses and/or their employees. Oh, did I mention large companies and unions won’t feel the HIT because they’re exempt?

The National Federation of Independent Businesses estimates the HIT will impact some 2 million small businesses, 27 million employees covered by their employer, 12 million more employees or self-employed individuals who purchase individual insurance, and up to 30 million currently uninsured who will soon have to purchase a plan through an exchange that includes the HIT. 

The good news is there’s a bill in Congress, H.B. 1370, that would repeal the HIT. Introduced by Republican Rep. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, it is now a bipartisan bill with the recent addition of Democrat Rep. Heath Shuler from North Carolina as a co-sponsor. The bill is currently in the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well as House Ways and Means.

Realistically, while the whole health care law is being challenged in the courts and is expected to eventually reach the Supreme Court, reasonable arguments on both sides make it impossible to predict the Supreme Court’s decision. Accordingly, as small businesses, we need to be ahead of the game and engaged in supporting any efforts to reduce the negative impact of the health care law looming ahead.

A letter, call or simple email to your Congress person, asking him or her to become a co-sponsorship of H.B. 1370, would be a proactive move for now.

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