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Asbury Park Press
As you read this, legislation is being considered in Trenton that would impose higher health insurance costs on small businesses at the worst possible time — during a pandemic when they are struggling to stay afloat.
Despite the financial hardship, many small business owners have done all they can to keep their employees on their group health plans at a time when everyone is exceptionally concerned about the risks posed by a very contagious virus. Lawmakers pushing this bill need to know it would not only hurt already battered small businesses but their employees, who risk losing that important insurance coverage if the bill passes.
The companion bills introduced by the state Senate and Assembly would place an annual fee on health insurance companies providing coverage in the state. Taxing the insurers may not sound so ominous, but make no mistake, while insurance companies may have to write the check, it’s small businesses and other policy-holders who will pay the bill.
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The Small Business Lease – Emergency Assistance Grant Program is designed to help small businesses impacted by Covid-19 (Photo: Brian Johnston)
A similar Health Insurance Tax (known as the HIT tax) was passed as part of Obamacare nationally, but after implementation, it was quickly repealed. Back then, the Congressional Budget Office, actuaries at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Joint Committee on Taxation confirmed such a tax on insurers would largely be passed on to consumers in higher insurance premiums. That’s exactly what will happen in New Jersey if this tax is adopted.
Not only will small businesses and their employees be hit hard by a Health Insurance Tax, so will New Jersey’s senior citizens who get supplemental Medicare policies, and those who purchase individual policies.
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We all know this is one of the many ways policymakers in Trenton hope to raise additional revenue since New Jersey faces a huge budget deficit that led Gov. Phil Murphy to sign a bill allowing the state to borrow nearly $10 billion. But approving a Health Care Tax that falls on small businesses and every citizen in the state during a pandemic seems highly counterintuitive.
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Many small businesses went into an economic freefall in March, seeing revenue losses as high as 70% to 90%. Now as they try to come back, the business owners don’t want to lose everything they spent their lifetime building due to rising costs. They want to come back, maintain their employees, and keep those workers safe, healthy and insured. They want to return to prosperity and even grow.
Eileen Kean (Photo: NFIB)
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Lawmakers can help do just that by making wise decisions at this critical time, taking into account that piling added costs upon small businesses, especially now, could crush them forever. They should not raise health care costs, not send small business taxes skyrocketing, and realize that the return on that investment may be key to the state’s recovery.
Eileen Kean is the state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, a small business association with thousands of members in New Jersey.
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