ObamaCare: the Burden on Small Business



Michael F. Cannon is director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute and co-author of Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It.

By Michael F. Cannon (@mfcannon)

How will ObamaCare affect a small business owner who's married with two kids?

For one thing, he and his business will pay higher health premiums beginning this year. 

He and his employees will have to purchase unlimited lifetime coverage and unlimited annual coverage (this requirement phases in between now and 2014).  The Obama administration estimates that these mandates alone could increase premiums for some businesses by 7 percent.

He and his employees will have to purchase coverage for dependent children without any waiting periods for pre-existing conditions.  Another mandate will require them to purchase coverage for dependents up to age 26.  One private estimate puts the cost of this “slacker” mandate an average of 2 percent, but our small-business owner’s premiums may rise even more.  Perversely, the cost may force him to drop dependent coverage entirely.

If his health plan loses its “grandfathered” status—as most small businesses will—he and his workers will have to purchase 100-percent coverage for a long list of preventive services. The administration estimates this mandate will increase premiums on average by 1.5 percent, but private estimates are in the range of 3-4 percent.

The Obama administration also acknowledges there is “tremendous,” “substantial,” and “considerable” uncertainty about these mandates’ costs.  That is, they may be higher than the administration says.

These mandates are a double-whammy for our small-business owner.  He already faces some of the highest premiums out there.  Yet he also provides some of the least comprehensive health plans.  So his premiums will rise more than larger employers’ premiums will.

According to HHS, these added costs will likely push him to switch health plans, and he will likely switch to a plan that complies with the mandates, but places tight restrictions on accessing care.

If he offers his workers a health savings account (HSA), medical savings account (MSA), flexible spending account (FSA), or health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), its employees will lose the ability to purchase over-the-counter drugs tax-free.  If they make non-medical withdrawals from their HSA or MSA, the penalty will double from 10 percent to 20 percent.

If his small business is a tanning salon, it is already paying a new 10-percent tax on its sales.

The Obama administration is quick to note that beginning in 2010, one third of small businesses may be able to get a tax credit that covers up to 35 percent of their health-benefits.  But that credit is not a long-term solution to rising costs; it disappears after 6 years, and often sooner.  It will also discourage hiring, because hiring too many workers will reduce or eliminate the credit.

By 2013, all businesses will have to fill out an IRS Form 1099 every time they purchase more than $600 worth of stuff from a vendor.  If our small-business owner owns a trucking company, he will have to ask gas stations for their tax ID numbers.  If the gas stations don’t cooperate, he will have to withhold money (i.e., send it to the IRS) for gas expenses.  This will be the biggest nightmare in the bill for small businesses.  Ironically, it will also hit many doctors, journalists, and others who supported ObamaCare, but run their own small business on the side.

If our small-business owner and his wife make over $250,000, they’ll pay the new, higher Medicare “payroll” tax of 3.8 percent, starting in 2013.  (It’s currently 2.9 percent).

But it’s 2014 where things really get messy.  That’s when the government will require everyone to purchase even more yet-unspecified types of coverage, which will cause premiums to rise even more.

If our small-business owner has 50 or more employees – or fewer full-time employees and lots of part-timers – he faces the prospect of tens of thousands of dollars in penalties under ObamaCare’s employer mandate if he does not provide “adequate” coverage to his workers.

The worst part is that these penalties will be triggered by factors that are unpredictable, unobservable, and totally beyond the control of our small-business owner.  He could get hit with those penalties simply because a worker’s spouse loses or changes jobs.  Or if a worker’s spouse moves out or dies.  Or if an employee’s parents move in.

This creates so much uncertainty that a small-business owner with 55 employees may have to fire six of them just to eliminate that potential liability.

But if he splits his 60-employee small business into two 25-employee businesses, then the federal government—maybe the IRS—will start snooping around to determine whether he did so for legitimate business reasons or just to avoid the mandate.

No matter the size of his firm, if he or his workers earn around $30,000 to $100,000 and get coverage through one of the new health insurance exchanges, their implicit marginal tax rates will jump from around 30-40 percent all the way up to 60-75 percent!

In many cases, if his employees get a raise or work more hours, ObamaCare will leave them with less take-home pay, because the higher earnings will cause them to lose thousands of dollars in subsidies.  Their implicit marginal tax rate will exceed 100 percent!

Our small-business owner is paying all these costs now – and so are his workers, and the unemployed.

ObamaCare has created enormous uncertainty.  Our small-business owner doesn’t have any idea what ObamaCare’s mandates will cost him in 2011, 2012, 2013, or 2014.  Or what additional benefits he will have to provide.  Or what kind of insurance options will be available by then.  All he knows is that these things will cost him more – possibly a lot more – and that he’s going to be spending lots of time and money, for the foreseeable future, on tax accountants and attorneys.

And he’s going to be much less likely to take on new commitments like expanding or hiring new workers.

Michael F. Cannon is director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute and co-author of Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It.

Countless leaders on the left are now arguing that removing President Donald Trump from office won't be enough — they're now calling for the president's "cult-like" supporters to be "deprogrammed." And it's not just fringe politicians.

During an appearance on "Real Time with Bill Maher" last week, former NBC anchor Katie Couric said, "The question is, how are we going to really almost deprogram these people who have signed up for the cult of Trump."

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi questioned whether the nation needs "a 9/11-type commission" to determine whether President Trump was colluding with Russian President Vladimir Putin "the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol." Clinton also made sure to include her favorite "deplorables" in her unsubstantiated conspiracy theory:

"But we now know that not just [Trump] but his enablers, his accomplices, his cult members, have the same disregard for democracy," Clinton said to Pelosi.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and New York Times Magazine's Nikole Hannah-Jones agreed that there is a need for "millions of Americans, almost all white, almost all Republicans" to be deprogrammed and punished, during an MSNBC interview last week.

Now, a story from the Washington Post is also preaching that narrative and even added that we need more restrictions for conservatives on social media and in the broadcast industry.

"So now we have to be deprogrammed? We've heard this over and over and over and over again, for months," said Glenn Beck on the radio program Tuesday. He read through the shocking details of the Washington Post op-ed and discussed the extraordinary dangers of the latest anti-conservative movement in America.

Watch the video below:

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As calls for censorship and restrictions against conservative voices get louder, Glenn Beck said he feels an "awesome responsibility" to speak, not the words he'd personally like to say, but those he believes the Lord would want him to share.

"It's an awesome responsibility, and one that I am not worthy of," Glenn said. "I want to say ... what He wants me to say. And I have to listen very carefully, because I feel the same way you do. But that will get us nowhere."

Glenn said it's time for Americans who are awake — not woke — to come together, no matter which side of the political aisle you're on, and stand with the truth.

"We are the Alamo, we will stand. But we desperately, desperately need you," Glenn said. "We need the people who are awake — not woke — awake. You may disagree with us. We are your allies, not your enemies. And if you will not stand with us in our hour of need, there will be no one left to stand with you in your hour of need. We must all come together, anyone who is awake."

Watch the video below to hear more from Glenn:

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The incoming Biden administration plans to waste no time in overturning much of the progress achieved by President Donald Trump.

On his radio program Monday, Glenn Beck ran through 10 executive orders President Joe Biden plans to announce on "day one" of his time in office — including rejoining the Paris climate accord, canceling the Keystone pipeline, mask mandates on federal land and during interstate travel, and a proposed federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.

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Eric Weinstein, managing director of investment firm Thiel Capital and host of "The Portal" podcast, is not a conservative, but he says conservative and center-right-affiliated media are the only ones who will still allow oppositional voices.

On "The Glenn Beck Podcast" this week, Eric told Glenn that the center-left media, which "controls the official version of events for the country," once welcomed him, but that all changed about eight years ago when they started avoiding any kind of criticism by branding those who disagree with them as "alt-right, far-right, neo-Nazi, etc.," even if they are coming from the left side of the aisle. But their efforts to discredit critical opinions don't stop there. According to Eric, there is a strategy being employed to destroy our national culture and make sure Americans with opposing views do not come together.

"We're trifling with the disillusionment of our national culture. And our national culture is what animates the country. If we lose the culture, the documents will not save us," Eric said. "I have a very strongly strategic perspective, which is that you save things up for an emergency. Well, we're there now."

In the clip below, Eric explains why, after many requests over the last few years, he finally agreed to this podcast.

Don't miss the full interview with Eric Weinstein here.

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