Vermont has long been a leader in providing quality health care coverage, and now we have an opportunity as a state to demonstrate how to deliver an affordable and comprehensive universal healthcare system. This system could potentially save Vermonters half a billion dollars a year in overall healthcare costs, which is great news for small businesses.
Currently, it’s estimated that Vermonters spend about $2.7 billion annually on health care premiums and out of pocket costs, and although it seems like a big price tag, the $2-$2.2 billion anticipated cost for Green Mountain Care will be an overall decrease. In addition, taking employers out of the health insurance provision system means we'll no longer need to administer health insurance, reducing our overhead. The implementation of universal healthcare presents us with a unique opportunity to benefit the entire state.
In order to achieve these benefits for small businesses and our employees, however, it’s critical that we find the right balance in the financing plan - one that won’t hurt small businesses like ours or hard working Vermonters.
According to the December 5th VT Digger article that reported a leak from the Governor’s Advisory Council, an 8% payroll tax could be a part of the financing package for Green Mountain Care. While 8% sounds like a reasonable starting point for the conversation about payroll tax contributions, we’re eager to learn more about the details. Specifically, how will the payroll tax be phased in for small businesses that aren’t currently offering a healthcare benefit to their employees? And, given that currently the average employee premium contribution covers about 80% of the cost, we would have serious concerns about any plan that shifted that balance too quickly, hurting working Vermonters. Any eventual cost shift needs to allow time for the benefits of universal healthcare and the cost savings we will see from improved health outcomes to flow to everyone.
These will be important details to clarify and to work on with the legislature once the administration’s proposal is released and no matter what the standard payroll tax rate ends up being.
Just as important as the balance of the financing plan is the coverage it provides. As founding members of Main Street Alliance, we support a plan that restores Vermonters to at least the coverage that was available under our Catamount Health Plan and Dr. Dynasaur and that includes dental and vision. We should not roll back the progress that Vermont has already made on this point and we support those who are calling for a higher Actuarial Value -– the better the policy, the better it is for Vermont.
As small business owners in Vermont, we're excited about the opportunity to stay engaged in this process. We are looking forward to the release of the Administration’s full plan later this month and to working with the legislature next year. We know that in the long run and done right, universal healthcare will save everybody money. When everybody saves money, they have more to circulate back into the local economy, and that's good for Vermont Main Street businesses and our employees.
This article was submitted by four of Main Street Alliance of Vermont's founding members: Wayne Nelson, L.N. Consulting in Winooski, Melinda Moulton, CEO of Main Street Landing in Burlington, Trudy Trombley, The Boutique at Stowe Mercantile and Truly Trudy’s Cosmetics in Stowe, and Eliza Cain, Red Hen Bakery in Middlesex
The Main Street Alliance is committed to elevating the voices of small business owners to advance public policies that are good for small businesses, our employees, and the communities we serve.
As part of National Small Business Week (June 17-21), small business owners from across the Main Street Alliance network are speaking out on the top issues facing the nation.
Each day during Small Business Week, we're releasing a new "Straight Talk on Main Street" issue fact sheet providing unique small business perspective and analysis, on the following schedule:
- Monday - IMMIGRATION REFORM: Immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship strengthens consumer demand, boosts economy
- Tuesday - TAX FAIRNESS: Ending offshore tax dodging will level playing field for small business
- Wednesday - HEALTH CARE: Small business owners preparing for full implementation of health care reform
- Thursday - ECONOMY-BOOSTING JOBS: Small business engagement critical to growing momentum on Paid Sick Days
- Friday - MONEY IN POLITICS: Small businesses seek greater disclosure of secret political spending by corporations and trade associations
On June 21, the Department of Health and Human Services released figures showing health insurance customers are due rebates totaling $1.1 billion from insurance companies that spent too little of their premium dollars on health care in 2011. These rebates are thanks to the 80/20 “value for premiums” rule in the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers to spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar collected in the small group and individual markets on health care (as opposed to lobbying, advertising, executive compensation, and general administration).
HHS also released state by state numbers (available here) for the total amount of rebates and the number of insurance customers who will benefit. These figures include: $123.6 million for 1.3 million consumers in Florida; $86.5 million for 1 million consumers in New York; $61.8 million for 300,000 consumers in Illinois; $43.1 million for 687,000 consumers in Virginia; and $27.9 million for 141,000 consumers in Maryland.
While rebates are not due until August 1, small businesses are already benefiting from the 80/20 rule in another way: it’s been forcing insurers to hold premiums down in attempts to avoid owing rebates to customers. The Main Street Alliance released the following quotes from businesses that are already benefiting from the 80/20 rule in this way:
Louisa McQueeney, CFO of Palm Beach Groves in Lantana, Florida:
“Last November, our health insurance agent called with our renewal: after annual increases of 12 percent, 22 percent, and even 32 percent, our premiums in 2012 were going to increase by a grand total of 0.2 percent. That is, essentially flat. This flat renewal came with exactly the same plan – no dumbing down the coverage, no increase in our deductibles, everything was the same.
“I’m thanking ObamaCare’s 80/20 rule for holding my premiums in check. And now, with the new announcement of more than $123 million in rebates due to 1.3 million people in Florida, we may even get a rebate on top of that. For the first time in my twelve years running this business, the health care picture is finally looking up.”
Brian England, owner of British American Auto Care in Columbia, Maryland:
“We renew our insurance in August every year, so around June is when I usually start to get nervous. When we sat down with our agent last summer, I was bracing myself for the bad news. But when he gave us our quotes, my worry turned to disbelief. Our rates were going DOWN 6 percent! I almost fell off my chair.
“The first thing I asked was, ‘why?’ I just couldn’t make sense of it. Our agent explained the rate cut was thanks to the medical loss ratio requirement in the Affordable Care Act. The health care law is working for my business. It passes this technician’s inspection test with flying colors.”
Congressional testimony may seem a long ways away from cupcake baking, but not for Jody Hall. Hall, owner of Seattle's fast-growing Cupcake Royale and a leader with the Main Street Alliance of Washington, traveled to Washington, DC on May 31 to testify about health care reform before a House committee.
Hall told the story of her business, her commitment to offering health care to her employees, and her support for the Affordable Care Act's state insurance exchanges and other provisions of the law that are putting downward pressure on health care costs for small businesses.
Helen Dally, whose parents own an auto repair shop in Oregon, spoke at a press conference on March 27 outside the Supreme Court, sharing how the Affordable Care Act is helping her get health coverage and helping her family’s business. Her parents’ auto shop is benefiting from lower premiums and a new tax credit thanks to the ACA, calling into question a challenge to the health law from a group that claims to be “the voice of small business.”
“The Affordable Care Act has thrown my parents’ business a lifeline,” Dally said. “Last year, instead of a double digit increase, their premiums went DOWN 3 percent. Plus, they qualified for the ACA’s small business tax credit – and got a credit of $12,900. My dad says the Affordable Care Act is ‘like a time machine’– rewinding their health insurance costs to what they paid in 2007.”
“The Supreme Court should protect these benefits and uphold the law,” Dally added. “As my parents say, we can’t afford to go back to a system that stacks the deck against small businesses. We’ve got to move forward. By upholding the law, the Court will allow small business owners to focus on what they do best – things like fixing cars and creating jobs – and it will allow their children, like me, to pursue our dreams.”
** SMALL BUSINESS MEDIA AVAILABILITY FOR SUPREME COURT ORAL ARGUMENTS **
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 26, 2012
CONTACT: Rachel Tardiff, Rachel[at]Fitzgibbonmedia.com, 202-746-1507
AUTO MECHANICS TO SUPREME COURT: “THE ACA PASSES OUR INSPECTION – NFIB DOESN’T SPEAK FOR US”
Auto shop owners illustrate small business benefits of health law, presenting sharp counterpoint to NFIB plaintiff (also an auto shop owner) who closed her business and filed bankruptcy with unpaid medical bills
** Auto shop owners from Maine, Maryland, Oregon and Washington available for interviews **
Washington, DC – The owners of small auto repair shops from coast to coast have a message for the Supreme Court as it hears oral arguments, including a challenge from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), on the Affordable Care Act this week. The mechanics’ message: “The health care law passes our inspection with flying colors, so when NFIB argues against it, remember this: NFIB doesn’t speak for us.”
Auto shop owners from across the country can speak to concrete benefits they’re getting from the Affordable Care Act. Examples include the small business health care tax credit, reduced rates thanks to the 80/20 value for premiums rule, and health coverage from a pre-existing condition insurance plan.
In a blow to the NFIB’s case, recent reports broke the news that its lead plaintiff, an auto shop owner from Florida, was forced to close her business and file for bankruptcy last year with thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills. Further complicating NFIB’s claim to represent non-partisan small business interests before the Court, a December op-ed in the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Karl Rove-connected Crossroads groups contributed $3.7 million to NFIB in 2010, the same year it joined the lawsuit against the ACA.
Auto shop owners available for interviews on the ACA, the Supreme Court, and NFIB include:
Jim Houser, owner of Hawthorne Auto Clinic in Portland, Oregon. Jim’s business is benefiting from the ACA’s small business health care tax credit. Jim said:
“We thought we were going to qualify for a credit of about $5,000. Well, we were in for a surprise. When we ran the final numbers, we received a credit of almost $13,000! This health care tax credit and the Affordable Care Act are like a time machine, rolling our health care costs back to what they were years ago.”
Brian England, owner of British American Auto Care in Columbia, Maryland. Brian saw his premiums go down for the first time in memory thanks to the ACA’s 80/20 value for premiums rule. Brian said:
“When we sat down with our agent, I was bracing myself for bad news. But when he gave us our quotes, my worry turned to disbelief. Our rates were going DOWN 6 percent! I almost fell off my chair. Our agent explained the rate cut was thanks to the medical loss ratio requirement in the Affordable Care Act. It’s a piece of the law that requires health insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they collect on health care costs.
“As a small business owner, I’m committed to providing good value to our customers. It seems only fair that we should be able to expect the same from our health insurance companies.”
Laura Waite, owner of Jay’s Professional Automotive in Renton, Washington. Laura was denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, but she’s getting the care she needs and still doing what she loves thanks to the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan. Laura said:
“When I got that rejection letter, the thought that kept going through my head was that we’d have to close our business and find jobs with health insurance. It was a devastating thought. Then I found out about the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan. I signed up. I’ve since learned that my psoriasis has led to other conditions that need treatment. I’m getting the care I need, and my husband and I are still doing what we love.”
Don Orange, owner of Hoesly ECO Auto & Tire in Vancouver, Washington. Don is happy to see his state of Washington moving forward to implement a state insurance exchange for small businesses. Don said:
“We’ve got to keep moving forward on health care. This is no time to throw it into reverse. These insurance exchanges are going to give small businesses better choices and more bargaining power. I don’t want that taken away.
“For a long time, I couldn’t figure why a group like NFIB would want to put small business owners back in the nightmare scenario health care was for us before the new law. Then I heard about the millions of dollars they got from Karl Rove’s Crossroads groups. Is it the National Federation of Independent Business, or the National Federation of Karl Rove?”
David White, owner of MDI Imported Car Service in Bar Harbor, Maine. David has seen first-hand how rising costs crippled small businesses before health care reform. Back in the early 2000s, faced with a 50 percent hike in his health premiums, he had to do three things: increase employee cost-sharing, raise his prices, and lay off one person for six months. David said:
“Thanks to the payment reforms and the insurance exchanges of the Affordable Care Act, I have peace of mind knowing that I won’t lose my business or my employees because of mounting health care costs. My business, like the dollar and the economy as a whole, runs on confidence; and that’s what the ACA provides me.”
The Main Street Alliance is a national network of state-based small business coalitions. MSA creates opportunities for small business owners to speak for themselves on issues that impact their businesses and local economies. www.mainstreetalliance.org
This week, the Affordable Care Act – the new health care law – goes before the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s a good time to ask: “Is the new law making a dent? Is it helping fix small businesses’ rough ride with health care?” We talked to a crew that knows a thing or two about dents and fixing rides: auto mechanics. These auto shop owners are seeing concrete benefits from the new law. They give the ACA a green light on inspection.
The fact sheet below includes stories and quotes from auto shop owners Jim Houser (Hawthorne Auto Clinic, Portland, Oregon), Brian England (British American Auto Care, Columbia, Maryland), Laura Waite (Jay's Professional Automotive, Renton, Washington), and David White (MDI Imported Car Service, Bar Harbor, Maine).
Read the fact sheet:
AUTO SHOP OWNERS DELIVER VERDICT ON HEALTH LAW: “IT PASSES INSPECTION”
Are you a small business owner in New Hampshire? Is your business taking advantage of some of the early benefits of the new health care reform law? If the answer is yes, we want to hear from you!
Did you receive the small business health care tax credit for providing health insurance to your employees last year? Have you seen some stabilization of rates thanks to the new emphasis on reasonable rate increases and a minimum standard of value for premium dollars? Are you seeing better coverage with free preventive services?
If you've received the health care law's small business tax credit or are benefiting from the law in other ways, please contact us to share your story! MSA is currently collecting stories from New Hampshire small business owners - and especially woman small business owners - on this topic. To share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
New research released today re-confirms two key points that small business owners who've been fighting for health care reform knew all along:
- First, that employer health coverage has been on the decline for the last decade, and small businesses have been feeling the squeeze more than anyone.
- And second, that provisions of the Affordable Care Act are going to bring health coverage within reach for a lot of small business owners who want to offer coverage but haven't been able to.
This second point is real good news for small businesses, and it comes in an Urban Institute report released today by the non-partisan Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (it's refreshing to see some real research after the circus show over the controversial McKinsey & Co. "study" that has been thoroughly debunked over the past week).
The Urban Institute study forecasts that insurance offer rates for firms with 100 or fewer employees will increase by nearly 10 percent thanks to the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges and other insurance market reforms. Firms with fewer than 10 employees are expected to see the biggest jump - an increase of more than 14 percent. Talk about delivering big for small businesses!
Of course, many important decisions remain to be made about how states will set up their new insurance marketplaces, or exchanges. Main Street Alliance leaders are actively engaged in states from Maine to Oregon to promote exchanges that maximize on the opportunity to make quality, affordable health coverage available to all small businesses.