Congress should delay Obamacare’s crippling health-insurance tax

Author: Jeff Wasden - October 10, 2017 - Updated: October 10, 2017

Jeff Wasden

With the Senate looking toward what’s next on health care reform and open enrollment looming, one issue picking up bipartisan support is delaying the health insurance tax for 2018. Delaying the tax would be an immediate action Congress could take to lower premiums.  In fact, if a delay of this tax is passed soon, individuals, employers and seniors could see premiums lowered by as much 3 percent next year.

As president of the Colorado Business Roundtable, I hope that, as part of the upcoming continuing resolution, Congress will support a one-year delay of this burdensome tax prior to its return on Jan. 1, 2018. It is a costly byproduct of Obamacare that, if ignored, could cripple businesses both large and small across all of Colorado.

The Colorado Business Roundtable is a leading state advocate for proactive, pro-business legislation, both locally and at the federal level. The very purpose of our existence is to improve the business environment of our state and region; the Health Insurance Tax runs counter to everything our members and allies stand for.

Legislation being proposed by our own U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is a step in the right direction. Sen. Gardner is a leading co-sponsor of the Healthcare Tax Relief Act. These are the types of legislative fixes we should support to protect our businesses and the individual markets from increasing premiums.

In August 2017, Oliver Wyman and Health Management Associates (HMA) released separate analyses of the impacts the return of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Health Insurance Tax (HIT) in 2018 will have on health insurance premiums, coverage, and federal and state budgets. The return of this tax on health insurance on Jan. 1 means more than 100 million Americans will face $22 billion in higher health insurance premiums – impacting individuals and families nationwide who receive insurance through Medicare, Medicaid, or their Employer (including State Governments).

In simple terms, the HIT would generate up to an additional $512 in taxes, per employee with family coverage, per year, on every single fully-insured business in America, including right here in Colorado. No matter the size of the company affected, the result is the same: reduced salaries, fewer new hires, uncertainty in investments, and of course, a worsening of already waning benefits offered to employees. Taxes such as the HIT have a burdensome effect not just on business owners, but on their employees as well.

Other harmful impacts of the return of the Tax on Health Insurance in 2018 include:

  • 19 million seniors and disabled individuals in Medicare Advantage will see their premiums increase $490 per couple (or $245 for every individual) in 2018.
  • The Health Insurance Tax will increase cost-sharing for the 19 million Medicare Advantage and 41 million Medicare Part D enrollees, half of whom have incomes below $26,000 a year.
  • Individual Market consumers will see health insurance premiums rise $158 annually as a result of the tax on health insurance returning in 2018.
  • State Medicaid programs will incur an additional cost of $181 for each of their insured Medicaid enrollees in 2018.
  • Medicaid will be forced to pay $5.5 billion of the $22 billion in increased premiums due to the return of the Health Insurance Tax in 2018.
  • The Health Insurance Tax burden on Medicaid in 2018 will result in States cutting provider payments. These cuts will:
    • Result in up to 36,500 privately insured individuals losing coverage; and
    • Increase total private sector premiums up to $2.7 billion more than the tax’s initial $22 billion premium impact.

As in most regulatory morasses, the smallest guy is hit the hardest. The HIT threatens to cripple the small businesses that serve as the very lifeblood of our communities. Recent analysis estimates that nationwide, between 152,000 and 286,000 private sector jobs could be lost by 2023 as a result of the increased cost burdens of the HIT. Growth would necessarily slow as small business owners face increased uncertainty and an inability to properly budget for the future.

By voting to delay the Health Insurance Tax once more, Congress can continue to support our state’s business community, strengthen our economy, and ultimately make all of Colorado proud.

Jeff Wasden

Jeff Wasden

Jeff Wasden is the president of the Colorado Business Roundtable.