Health Law Revision Is Approved

Note: This legislation applies to the change in the definition of “small employer ” under the Insurance Mandates and not to the Employer Mandate.

By ROBERT PEAR
New York Times

October 2, 2015 – WASHINGTON – The Senate passed legislation on Thursday intended to protect small and midsize businesses from increases in health insurance premiums, clearing the bill for President Obama’s expected signature.

The action by Congress was a rare example of bipartisan agreement on how to revise the Affordable Care Act.

The bill, approved this week in the House and the Senate by voice vote, eliminates a provision of the law that would have imposed tough, potentially costly new requirements on businesses with 51 to 100 employees.

A White House spokeswoman confirmed that Mr. Obama would sign the bill, but she declined to discuss its substance. Recent comments by administration officials suggested that they did not particularly like the legislation but could not stop the growing wave of bipartisan support for it.

At issue is a provision of the health care law that expands the definition of a “small employer” to include companies with 51 to 100 employees, subjecting them to stringent insurance regulation starting Jan. 1. States have historically defined small employers as those with 50 or fewer employees.

The bill preserves the traditional definition of “small group,” but allows states to expand it to include organizations with 51 to 100 employees if they want to do so.

Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, the chief sponsor of the Senate version of the bill, said it would ensure that “small-business owners all across America are not more negatively impacted by Obamacare.”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, the senior Democrat on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, said that passage of the bill was “a win for businesses across this country, a win for bipartisanship.”

“This bill will make a helpful adjustment to the Affordable Care Act for small and midsize businesses by limiting potential premium increases and letting states determine what’s best for their market,” Mrs. Shaheen said.

The House passed the measure Monday. Representative Brett Guthrie, Republican of Kentucky, the chief sponsor, said he had heard from many small-business owners who feared that their insurance arrangements would be disrupted by “the mandated expansion of the small-group market.”

Kurt Giesa, an actuary at Oliver Wyman, a management consulting concern, told Congress at a hearing last month that employers with 51 to 100 employees would face premium increases averaging 18 percent next year if they were subjected to the new requirements.

“Many of the groups receiving such sizable increases would elect to drop their health insurance coverage and either self-fund or not offer any coverage at all,” Mr. Giesa testified.

The swift passage of the legislation followed months of lobbying and advocacy. Among those who endorsed the bill were the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.