Small Business Needs Not Addressed in Health Care Bill Passed by House

It looks like PPA members may have reason to be concerned about the health care bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday, November 7, 2009. The U.S. House passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. The vote was recorded as 220 yeas to 215 nays, with the majority of congressmen voting along party lines. To help you better understand what this bill could mean for photographers, PPA has pulled together some information for you to consider.

H.R. 3962 Concerns
While this bill represents the first step towards addressing affordable health care access for all, there is concern about how it impacts small business owners, like photographers. The contents of the bill that are worrisome include:

  • An “employer mandate,” which means employers will be required to offer health care to both full-time and part-time employees.
  • A provision requiring employers that do not provide “qualified” health insurance to pay a payroll tax of up to 8% (percentage is dependent on payroll size). This payroll tax also applies to employers who offer coverage, but whose employees elect to participate in the health care exchange.
  • Increased tax-compliance paperwork to account for the above payroll taxes and any applicable health care tax credits.

Upon the passage of H.R. 3962, Susan Eckerly, senior vice president of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the nation’s leading small business association, stated: “Small businesses have long supported reform that provides more affordable and accessible health care options for them and their workers. Instead of listening to small businesses, the House passed a bill that will actually make things worse for small firms. Punishing small employers with employer mandates, payroll taxes and a new government-run program paid for on the backs of small businesses, will not fix our broken healthcare system.”

What Will the Senate Do?
Although H.R. 3962 cleared the House, it now faces a new set of challenges in the Senate. In addition to considering this bill, the Senate must also weigh two different health care proposals: S. 1679 –Affordable Health Choices Act and S. 1796 – America’s Healthy Future Act.

  • S. 1679 – the Affordable Health Choices Act was proposed by the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and is the result of the lengthy mark-up that took place this past summer. A notable provision in this piece of legislation is one that would allow non-profit organizations (like PPA) to act as a “gateway” for individuals and small business employers to purchase health coverage.
  • S. 1796 – America’s Healthy Future Act is legislation put forward by the Senate’s Committee on Finance. Much of the debate regarding this bill took place upon the Senate’s return from the August recess. Notable provisions in this bill are the creation of health coverage exchanges similar to the SHOP Act and targeted benefit categories that can be offered to small groups and individuals seeking coverage in this market.

The hope now is that senators will keep the needs of small businesses a top priority. Eckerly added that doing so, “begins with enacting responsible insurance market reforms and increasing competition in the small group and individual private market by creating an exchange modeled on the SHOP Act.”  (The SHOP Act was supported by PPA last Congress.) Eckerly also stated the importance of being able to purchase national benefit plans across state lines.

In the Coming Weeks…
“Whether covering themselves, their family or employees, photographers should not have to choose between paying for health care and staying in the industry,” says David Trust, PPA’s chief executive officer.  “We're going to continue to watch the situation over the next days and weeks, and if we need to mobilize, we'll send out a notice to all our members.”

In the meantime, if you’re curious how your congressman voted on H.R. 3962, click here for a full vote count by party and member.

If you want to communicate the importance of having access to affordable, quality health care, visit the Contact Congress page to email, call or write your representative or senator.

In addition to representing members on copyright issues, PPA is a strong advocate on small business issues, primarily relating to health care. Through the Small Business Coalition for Affordable Healthcare, PPA advocates health care solutions that meet the needs of small business owners, employees, the self-employed and their families. In previous congressional sessions, PPA has supported various health reform bills, in particular those that would provide trade associations the ability to create insurance pools on behalf of its members.

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