He Said She Said October



Plagued by delays and broken promises, President Barack Obama’s health care law is now sputtering toward a soft launch, bleeding the backing of even its staunchest allies along the way. Millions of Americans have lost their employer-provided health insurance due to burdensome mandates, premiums for hard working families have spiked under the law and an unsettling trend of a permanent part-time workforce has resulted. Just recently, the Obama Administration announced another delay to small business exchange enrollment, calling into question whether this flawed law will ever be ready for full implementation.

I have spoken with a number of small business owners about how the employer mandate will affect them. On a number of occasions I’ve been told that firms are refraining from hiring new employees, despite having work for them, because an increase in employment would take the company over the threshold to provide health insurance. A chef and owner of an up-and-coming restaurant says he will have to make do with his current staff. And a construction contractor could use more hands but cannot take the increased strain of the ACA on his business.

Other Michigan business owners are facing the difficult decision on whether or not they can afford to continue offering employer sponsored health insurance under the new Obamacare regime of countless fees and penalties.

On a national scale, many more businesses have announced their plans on how to cope with this job-killing law. Trader Joe’s will no longer provide benefits to part-time workers, SeaWorld will reduce hours for up to 18,000 part-time workers and Stryker laid off more than 1,000 employees.

Walgreen Co. is set to become one of the largest employers yet to make sweeping changes to company-backed health programs. In early October, the drugstore giant is expected to disclose a plan to provide payments to eligible employees for the subsidized purchase of insurance starting in 2014. The plan will affect roughly 160,000 employees, and will require them to shop for coverage on a private health-insurance marketplace.

Aside from rising health-care costs, the company cited compliance-related expenses associated with the new law as a reason for the switch. Rising health-care costs and a climate of change brought about by the new federal health law are prompting American corporations to revisit the pact they’ve long had with employees over medical benefits.

Chairman Mike Rogers represents Michigan’s 8th Congressional District. He Chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and is a Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (Healthcare Sub-Committee)

 

SheSaidSHE SAID: Expanding Health Care: the Cure for Small Businesses’ Bottom Line

Gretchen Whitmer

The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was designed with the explicit intent of being palatable to a variety of different stakeholders, improving health care access and affordability for residents while simultaneously reducing costs for businesses. One of the greatest expenditures for business owners has been health insurance benefits for their employees, and these business owners have rightfully been as frustrated about the rising costs of health care as their employees.

Small businesses have historically paid 18 percent more for health coverage than larger employers, but under the ACA, a tax credit is available to businesses with 25 or fewer full-time-equivalent employees and average wages of $50,000 or less.

Additionally, for the first time ever, small businesses have access to a new tool that lets them research and compare their health insurance options in one place — HealthCare.gov. And starting in 2014, Affordable Insurance Exchanges will make buying health insurance simple by enabling small business owners to offer their employees a range of plans from different insurers just like larger employers do, while still receiving a single bill and writing a single check.

Another policy victory that will improve health care access and lower expenses for small businesses was the Michigan Legislature’s recent passage of Medicaid expansion. This bill will expand Medicaid for nearly half a million state residents who are under 133 percent of the federal poverty level, offering health care coverage for more residents — dropping Michigan’s uninsured population by about 46 percent — while securing federal funding to help pay for it.

Medicaid expansion had the support of a broad and unprecedented coalition, with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Association of Michigan, organized labor, hospitals, health care providers and patients alike all working together to get it passed.

This widespread support for Medicaid expansion is due in part to its universal benefits. In addition to helping Michigan’s uninsured, expanding Medicaid will benefit our state’s businesses, hospitals and individuals with private insurance by lowering costs across the board.

Those currently without insurance typically skip preventive care and screening treatments, only showing up for expensive emergency room visits with acute problems. The cost of this uncompensated care is passed along from the hospitals to insurance companies, which raises the rates and premiums for businesses and individuals with private insurance. Reducing the amount of uncompensated care will reduce insurance rates and health care costs for all, from business owners to working families.

Providing health care to more people and working to keep costs down should not be a political issue. True, it helps more low-income families who currently can’t afford health care. But it also better serves our doctors, nurses and hospitals as well as small business owners by reining in the insurance industry.

With both of these laws enacted, I hope we can put aside the vitriol and rhetoric and keep working together to address the health care needs of the people of Michigan.

Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer was born and raised in Michigan and grew up and attended public schools in East Lansing and Grand Rapids. She twice graduated from Michigan State University, earning both her undergraduate degree and her law degree magna cum laude. Gretchen practiced law with the firm Dickinson Wright in Lansing before serving in the Michigan House of Representatives from 2000-2006. Senator Whitmer was first elected to the State Senate in March of 2006, and in 2011, was elected Senate Democratic Leader by her colleagues, making her the first woman to lead a caucus in the Michigan Senate. Gretchen lives in East Lansing with her, husband Marc, her two daughters: Sherry (11), Sydney (9) and his three sons: Mason (20), Alex (20) and Winston (15).

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