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Healthcare and Small Business: What's Going On

By: Brittany Engelmann-- 2017-04-13 6:00 am --

Nothing is clear about healthcare reform.

What seemed like a foregone conclusion a few weeks ago, that the Republican controlled legislature would make good on years of promises and repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, did not come to pass. Now small businesses are left in the lurch as Obamacare lumbers ahead badly in need of repair but unlikely to get any attention.

How can a small retailer navigate these fraught political waters?

Businesses with fewer than 49 full time employees are still free from penalties associated with the Affordable Care Act. 

Most of the concern for a business that employs just a handful of shift workers come from personal and household issues associated with rising premiums and lack of coverage.

What should my employees do?

If your employees currently use a state exchange for their health insurance, they should be ok for the short term as most of the Obamacare provisions will remain intact and working for at least a year.

If your employees do not have coverage under Obamacare, they may be hit with a tax penalty, but the Trump administration has instructed the IRS to not enforce the penalty, so they may actually escape the fee.

What happens if the government doesn’t do anything?

Keep an eye on the news; this thing is moving quickly.

If Congress fails to take action on the Affordable Care Act, The White House can still do a lot by the stroke of a pen, as it were. There’s even a possibility that President Trump could end the tax subsidy for low income workers by simply dropping a pending lawsuit.

There are just as plausible reasons to believe that the administration will work with Congress to move toward a single payer system. So it’s really anyone’s guess at this point.

What if my business is over 49 full time employees?

Those business that do employ more than 49 full time employees are still required to provide coverage to their employees or incur a per-head penalty.

The Republican plan that fizzled in congress would have eliminated the penalty for an employer of more than 49 who did not provide coverage and offered some options for employers, including beefed up interest in Health Savings Accounts.

For now, these small businesses with 49+ employees still bear a portion of the revenue generation required for Obamacare to operate.

Trump and other congressional leaders have said that they’ll try again to implement some of their reforms, so it’s worth keeping an eye on developments.

Is there anything I can do?

There are plenty of ways to help the cause no matter which side of the issue you land on. For instance, The National Retail Federation advocates for many of the policies that were contained in the failed Obamacare replacement and would like to see work continue on eliminating the employer mandate.