Guest Editorial Walter Oden:

Long Island Branch Manager, U.S. Small Business Administration

Here at the U.S. Small Business Administration, we know that health care remains a top concern for small business owners across the country, and I want you to know that the Affordable Healthcare Act takes significant steps to make healthcare coverage more accessible and affordable. Currently small businesses pay as much as 18 percent more than their larger competitors for the same coverage, and many employers who may want to provide coverage to their employees often can’t afford to.

There are two critical ways that the ACA will help small businesses: by increasing access and by offering affordable options. The law provides access to better health care options for both the employer and employees. Additionally, the law will lower the growth of premium costs and provides a number of key benefits for small businesses. These benefits include tax credits, as well as the opportunity for small businesses to leverage their buying power with other small businesses in the new Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace, also commonly known as the Exchange. The ACA will also make sure that insurance companies are spending at least 80 percent of consumer premiums on actual medical care, and not salaries or administrative costs.

You may not know that the ACA is already helping small businesses today, and that there are 360,000 small businesses that have already taken advantage of tax credits to provide insurance to two million employees. SBA is continuing to work with our federal partners, community organizations, trade groups, and resource partners across the country to help small businesses understand how they can best benefit from the ACA. We’ve trained more than 2,200 members of our field staff, federal staff from other agencies, and our SBA resource partners to be help to inform their small business communities on what’s in store next.
Starting January 2014, coverage through the competitive health insurance marketplaces for individuals and small businesses will be in place, with open enrollment beginning October 1, 2013. The new employer shared responsibility rules will take effect in 2015, and the majority of small businesses will not be affected. In fact, businesses with fewer than 50 full-time or full-time equivalent employees are not subject to these rules, and that’s 96 percent of our businesses. For those businesses with 50 or more employees, the majority already provide coverage that meets the health care law requirements.
As these dates approach, be sure that you have all the information and resources available to you to understand how the ACA will affect your business. As with any business decision, we encourage small business owners to learn the facts and consult their tax legal advisors when making a decision about what works best for their business.

My experience with small business owners has shown me that good business owners treat their employees like family, and that small businesses overwhelmingly want to provide coverage to their employees. By providing new benefits such as healthcare, small business owners also become more competitive within their community and more attractive to job seekers.

© 2011 Street Smarts Publishing, Inc.