HU.S. Republicans on Wednesday passed legislation to make it easier for small businesses to pay health costs for their employees.
The Custom Health Option and Individual Care Expenses Arrangement Act, or CHOICE Arrangement Act, codifies health care reimbursement arrangements established by the Trump administration in 2019, allowing business owners to reimburse their employees for insurance plans individual illnesses as well as providing tax-advantaged funds for eligible medical expenses. It is intended to provide an alternative to employer-provided health plans, which enjoy tax privileges under current legislation.
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“Washington should not prevent workers from getting the medical coverage that works best for them and their families. Equally important, workers should be able to take their insurance plan with them if they leave their current job,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO).
“This bill gives small businesses the opportunity, if they wish, to offload the administrative burden of managing traditional insurance. At the same time, it gives workers more options for their own health care and makes this coverage portable,” Smith said.
Democrats, however, said the measure, which toed party lines, would undermine Obamacare by reviving Trump-era rules. “It’s all Trump, Trump, Trump,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) said, calling it “death by a thousand cuts” to Obamacare.
The bill also includes a provision drafted by Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) that requires the Treasury Department to clearly inform businesses of the various tax benefits and programs that make it financially possible to provide health care benefits to their employees.
“Small employers want to offer these benefits to their employees not only to retain them, but also to ensure that they have a high quality of life,” said Tenney, owner of a small print shop in northern India. New York State. “It’s time we raised awareness about these programs and removed any barriers to their successful and effective implementation.”
HR 3799 is part of a larger health care package that protects self-insurance, stop-loss insurance, and association health plans.
Rep. Robert Scott (D-VA) condemned the House floor bill as a “recycled futile attempt to circumvent the Affordable Care Act.”
Scott and Doggett both expressed concerns that HR 3799 would allow employers to discriminate against employees with pre-existing conditions and that consumers needed to be protected from being coerced into “undesirable” plans by employers.
House Education and Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx said, “This bill does not turn health care into the Wild West as some members claim.
“It’s true, everyone had health insurance [under Obamacare]”said Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), who drafted the portion of the legislation on health association plan protections, “but not everyone had health care.” Walberg said went on to cite the rising costs of health insurance premiums as well as health products and services.
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Small businesses have consistently reported for 40 years that the cost of providing health insurance to their employees is their top concern, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Only 39% of companies with one to nine employees offer health insurance, compared to 89% of companies with 30 or more employees according to the NFIB. Of these small businesses, 94% say it is somewhat difficult to offer employer-sponsored health insurance as part of their benefits package.