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There is a growing bipartisan consensus in Congress that legislative action must be taken to fix a misguided rule buried in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). A mandated expansion of the small group market, set to go into effect January 2016, will force businesses with between 51 and 100 employees to leave their current plans in the “large group” market and purchase health care plans in the “small group” market. The problem is that these small group market plans will be subject to new restrictive rating rules and benefit mandates that cost more and offer fewer choices.
About 3.4 million workers and over 150,000 American businesses who were told “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” could be impacted by this new rule that will force them to change their plans.
During a U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing, Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) asked Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell “what actions they are looking at taking" to address this critical issue. In response, Secretary Burwell said, “We are looking at the issue right now and one of the things that I would ask if we can follow up with you and your staff to make sure we are getting the comments that you are hearing directly either from employers or other groups, that would be very helpful. We’d love to hear directly if you have those comments.”
But Secretary Burwell should already be well aware of the business community’s concerns with the rule. In addition to a letter Rep. Guthrie referenced in the hearing, 18 business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter dated February 18, 2015, to the secretary. The letter called on HHS to “delay the expansion of the small group market definition as soon as possible,” and emphasized the need to protect employers and their workers from higher premiums and lost coverage.
Let’s hope HHS begins to take these concerns seriously. Time is running out and this looming mandate is already creating enormous uncertainty for American businesses.
This week, a coalition of business groups launched the 50-100 Coalition to pressure Congress to fix this mess before it’s too late.