WINDHAM — The potential of increases in health care costs for small businesses around the state took center stage during a morning roundtable discussion.
U.S. Congresswoman Annie Kuster, a Democrat representing New Hampshire’s 2nd District, joined local business leaders and local legislators at the A.J. Letizio Enterprise Center in Windham on Nov. 22 to talk about what the Health Insurance Tax, or HIT, would mean to small businesses in the Granite State if implemented.
The discussion was hosted jointly by the Greater Derry/Londonderry and Greater Salem chambers of commerce.
HIT is one of the largest tax increases included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010.
In 2018, both Republicans and Democrats worked to pass a one-year suspension of the tax for 2019.
If allowed to return in 2020, the tax would add an estimated $16 billion to the cost of coverage for individuals, small businesses, families and Medicare Advantage seniors.
If Congress doesn’t act, healthcare premiums would increase and benefits would be reduced for approximately 142 million Americans.
The impact may also affect 1.7 million small businesses, 11 million employees and self-employed who purchase healthcare coverage through the individual market and another 23 million employees covered by their employer.
New Hampshire Medicaid would also incur an additional cost of $7 million if HIT is allowed to go back into effect.
Kuster said it’s important to approve a two-year delay of the HIT or better yet, do away with it altogether.
“The HIT has huge implications for affordability,” she said, adding she supports a bipartisan legislation with provisions to extend relief from HIT into 2020.
“Significant increase would be passed on to small business,” Kuster said. “We are geared up to take action, to keep healthcare affordable.”
Kuster said although a delay would provide relief, she wants to eliminate the tax. Work is being done “one step at a time,” she said.
The congresswoman also heralded bi-partisan efforts in Washington to help protect those with pre-existing conditions, part of the original Affordable Care Act provisions.
Kuster said she is optimistic HIT won't be delayed.
“This is one of our top priorities for year end,” she said.
Although Washington seems fractured, Kuster said it’s important to remember the good work being done on both sides of he aisle that don’t make the major headlines and news cycles.
“It’s not part of the media narrative,” she said, “all the good work being done.”
Donna Morris, president of the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce, said healthcare concerns often top the list of most relevant issues among small businesses in the region.
“This tax would hit small businesses,” she said. “It’s too much for small businesses to absorb.”
Windham business owner Al Letizio said the economy is doing well and his company is doing well, but if HIT moves forward it will impact the benefits he currently offers his employees.
“The increase would directly impact families,” he said.
After her visit to Windham, Kuster went on to Salem to visit Foxx Life Sciences to tour the space and talk with company leadership about the importance of the Export Import Bank that provides financing support to New Hampshire small businesses so they can sell their products in overseas markets.
Last month, Kuster voted in favor of House of Representatives bi-partisan legislation to reauthorize Export Import Bank and raise the annual limit on outstanding export financing.