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Begich Announces Small Business Relief Plan to Simplify Health Care Law

Introduces Package of Bills to Create Competition, Choice, Sensible Tax Code for Small Businesses

With the goal of helping small businesses more easily provide health care coverage to employees under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today announced his Small Business Relief Plan to create more competition, choice, and improve rates and tax breaks for small businesses as they shop for health insurance.

“As a small-business owner, I know that Alaska small businesses need less bureaucracy and fewer complicated rules – not more,” said Sen. Begich. “I want our small-business owners to spend their time focused on what they do best - creating jobs and supporting our local communities. That is why I have introduced my Small Business Relief Plan to help remove obstacles for our small businesses and simplify purchasing health insurance." 

Sen. Begich’s Small Business Relief Plan (click for fact sheet) consists of five bills and several provisions to make purchasing insurance for small businesses more affordable and simpler. The bills would give businesses time to prepare for the new rules under the ACA, increase competition by allowing small businesses access to multi-state insurance plans, expand and simplify tax credits in the ACA and implement sensible tax deductions for job-creating investments.  

The bills do not dismantle the ACA, but instead improve its approach to helping small businesses provide health coverage to employees. While Sen. Begich has long said that we must address the one-fifth of Alaska residents who are uninsured and soaring health care costs, he also understands that any solution must be a balanced approach that looks out for small businesses and their employees. 

“This package will give families and small businesses more options to choose from when picking a health plan, provide much needed tax credits to more small-business owners, reduce taxes for business expenses, and delay the employer responsibility reporting requirements and penalties to give businesses time to learn about the new law,” Sen. Begich said.

The Small Business Relief Plan consists of five bills that will:

Allow Small Businesses to Access Multi-State Insurance Plans (Healthy Competition for Small Businesses Act)

·         Allow businesses to buy into the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program in States where fewer than two plans and no multi-state plan is available;

·         Make the process of enrolling in FEHB the same as enrolling in other qualified health plans offered in the SHOP marketplace;

·         End the option to enroll in FEHB as soon as two or more plans become available in the SHOP marketplace, or when a multi-state qualified health plan becomes available. 

Delay Employer Responsibility Mandate and Streamline Communication with Small Businesses (The Realistic Employer Responsibility Act):

·         Delay employer responsibility provisions by two years, doubling the already announced one-year delay;

·         Make optional the reporting requirements through year 2015, and delay the penalties in the ACA until 2016;

·         Require the administration to establish a website by Jan. 1, 2014 where employers can access information about the employer responsibility provisions of the health reform law, as well as other relevant details and guidelines.

Help Small States by Creating More Competition through Multi-State CO-OPs (Increased Competition for Consumers Act):

·         Reinstate funding for consumer-run cooperatives that was eliminated under the American Taxpayer Relief Act;

·         Reinstating CO-OP funding would provide access to affordable health insurance plans and increase competition in the health marketplace.

Improve and Expand Access to Small Business Health Care Tax Credits (The Small Business Tax Credits Improvement Act):

·         Raise the maximum average salary to qualify for the credits from $50,000 to $75,000;

·         Raise the maximum size of the businesses eligible to receive the tax credits from 25 employees to 50 employees;

·         Increase the threshold for a firm to receive the biggest possible credit from 10 to 20 full-time employees;

·         Eliminate the requirement that employers claiming the credit contribute the same percentage of the cost of each employee’s health insurance;

·         Allow small business owners and their families to directly benefit from the tax credits.

Create a More Sensible Tax Code for Job Creating Business Expenses (Permanent Expansion of Section 179)

  • Makes permanent a provision allowing small businesses to immediately deduct investments in new equipment and property up to $250,000.  The deduction would phase out for investments exceeding $800,000. Currently the provision is scheduled to expire in tax year 2013, reverting to much lower levels.

Sen. Begich has been consistent in pressuring the administration to make these improvements. He has been outspoken in his support of delaying the employer responsibility mandate and for months has pressed the administration to improve its implementation of health care reform. In May, Sen. Begich sent a letter expressing his concern that businesses needed better access to information regarding the new opportunities and responsibilities presented by the ACA.  In June Sen. Begich also requested that the Multi-State Plan Program include high-cost states like Alaska to help keep insurance affordable for small businesses.

Additionally, Sen. Begich has written a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and is continuing to urge the agency to quickly enact regulations allowing small businesses to access capital markets, particularly through “crowd-funding.”

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