Friday, June 13, 2014

House Approves Permanent Small-Business Tax Break

The House voted Thursday to make permanent a tax break allowing small businesses to write off up to $500,000 in new equipment purchases.
While the move adds to momentum for congressional efforts to extend a range of now-temporary tax breaks, it also sharpens a conflict between the House and Senate over whether to extend the breaks permanently or temporarily.
Thursday's vote was 272-144, with several dozen Democrats joining Republicans to support the measure.

The expensing provision gives small businesses the ability to write off equipment purchases up front, rather than depreciating them over a period years. The amount has been set at $500,000 since 2010, but without congressional action would fall to about $25,000 for 2014.

The Wall Street Journal. - Read full article here.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Senate panel praises HHS candidate, grills on ACA

WASHINGTON — Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Obama's nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services, appears on track for confirmation after a Thursday hearing in which she was praised by Democratic and Republicans senators.  

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, called her a friend. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, called her "dynamic." Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said she had a reputation for "competence," but continued, "You are going to need it."  Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., praised her, saying "I support her nomination and I will vote for her. She comes with a portfolio of experiences" that qualify her for the job.  

Burwell, now director of the Office of Management and Budget, still faced criticism by Republicans for the Affordable Care Act, which she will have to administer as HHS secretary.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Consumers who opt not to enroll in health insurance plans to face growing penalties

As Americans continue to get a grasp on the Affordable Care Act amid cancelled policies, mandate changes and shopping through the Marketplace, many of them are opting not to enroll in healthcare plans in 2014 and pay a $95 penalty for not having health insurance.

While Jennifer Richardson, marketing and outreach coordinator for the Athens Neighborhood Health Center, understands why some people want to wait to enroll in healthcare policies this year, she warns residents not to make paying the penalties a yearly habit as it could end up costing them hundreds of dollars.

“The penalty is minimal this year to give people extra time to sign up for health insurance, but if you continue to prolong it it’s going to cost you a lot of money that you could have used to pay toward a premium for health coverage,” Richardson said.

Deadline to sign up for a healthcare is March 31. Anyone who has not signed up for health coverage by then will be charged a penalty.

The penalty in 2014 will be calculated one of two ways and the consumer will pay whichever amount is higher, Richardson said. Either 1 percent of the annual household income or $95 per person for the year. If there is a child in the home under the age of 18 the penalty will be $47.50 for that child.
The penalties increase next year to 2 percent of the yearly household income or $325 per person. The penalty for children will be $162.50.

Another increase, 2.5 percent of annual household income or $695 per person, is expected for 2016.
The spike in the penalty each year is to encourage people to sign up for health insurance instead of going without and just paying a fee, Richardson said.

Read the full article HERE

Friday, March 7, 2014

CMS report: 11 million small business workers could see

CMS report: 11 million small business workers could see

higher premiums under health law

Published on February 26, 2014 at 7:11 AM

Nearly two-thirds of small businesses will see their health insurance premiums increase under the ACA, according to

a new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services report. Democrats counter that the report ignores subsidies for


The Wall Street Journal

: Rising Premiums May Hit Small Firms

A federal actuarial report predicts that 65 percent of small businesses will see their health-insurance premiums

increase under part of the Affordable Care Act. The report, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Office of the Actuary, is the latest piece of bad news for the president's signature domestic achievement. While the

law was designed to curb rising health costs, some consumers have seen their premiums or other out-of-pocket

costs increase this year, or had their plans canceled altogether (Corbett Dooren, 2/24).


: Republicans Pounce On Obamacare Report; Democrats Cry Foul

Republicans are seizing on a new report in which the Obama administration itself concludes that the President's

signature health care law would raise premiums for roughly two-thirds of small companies. But Democrats point out

that Republicans designed and ordered the report, which they say ignores billions of dollars in subsidies that will

decrease those premiums (Desjardins, 2/24).

The Associated Press/Washington Post

: Premiums May Rise For 11 Million Workers: Report

The estimate is far from certain, partly because many small businesses renewed their policies in 2013. Renewing

before the end of the year allowed them to avoid higher premiums that went into effect Jan. 1, when coverage was

required to conform to the law (2/24).

Fox News

: Obamacare May Increase Premiums For 11 Million Workers, Report Says

Republicans renewed their fight against Obamacare on Monday in response to a new report in which the Centers for

Medicare & Medicaid Services concludes that 11 million small business employees may see their premiums rise

under the law. The report, released Friday, says the higher rates are partly due to the health law's requirement that

premiums can no longer be based on a person's age. That has sent premiums higher for younger workers, and lower

for older ones (2/25).

Politico Pro

: Small-Business Health Premiums May Rise, Report Says

A new report by the Obama administration estimates that health insurance premiums of 11 million small-business

employees will tick up under the federal health care law, handing Republicans another potent talking point about

how Obamacare is inflicting damage on workers. The report also found that premiums are expected to fall for the

other 6 million small-business employees and that the impact on premiums in large employer health plans will be

"negligible." The report examining the law's key market reform rules was mandated by the Budget Control Act and

was quietly released late Friday, about two years late, Republicans noted (Norman, 2/24).

Meanwhile, larger companies are reporting effects of the law.

The Wall Street Journal

: Health Law Already Has Impact On Bottom Lines

The Affordable Care Act's impact on the bottom line is starting to ripple across corporate America. More than 80

public companies told investors the new health care rules were, or could be, a financial boost or drag on their

quarterly earnings, though they were often uncertain of the magnitude, according to a Wall Street Journal search of

earnings-call transcripts for the most recent quarter provided by FactSet (Knox, 2/24).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Employer Mandate Delayed AGAIN

Feb. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Employers with fewer than 100 workers won’t have to provide health insurance until 2016 under Obamacare, as the administration said it would again delay a key requirement of the health law.

Larger firms have to cover at least 70 percent of the workforce starting next year, the Internal Revenue Service said in a rule issued today.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act envisioned as a cornerstone of its expansion of U.S. insurance coverage that employers with 50 or more workers would be required to provide health benefits to their employees. Under pressure from business groups, the Obama administration has weakened that requirement since July, first by delaying enforcement of the mandate until 2015. Many firms will have even more time under the regulation issued today.

“While about 96 percent of employers are not subject to the employer responsibility provision, for those employers that are, we will continue to make the compliance process simpler and easier to navigate,” Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur said in a statement. “Today’s final regulations phase in the standards to ensure that larger employers either offer quality, affordable coverage or make an employer responsibility payment starting in 2015 to help offset the cost to taxpayers of coverage or subsidies to their employees.”

The rule provides employers far more flexibility than allowed by the language of the health law, which levies fines of as much as $3,000 per worker against firms that don’t comply with the requirement.

Read the full article HERE

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Navigating a New Health Plan, After the Surge

YOU’VE no doubt heard about problems some people are encountering when they try to use the health insurance they’ve bought through the federal and state exchanges. A backlog of applications, the result of a surge in enrollments at year’s end for coverage starting this month, has resulted in many people experiencing delays in getting insurance cards, policy numbers or authorization for treatment.
Keith Lichtman, an interior designer in Manhattan, knows the problems only too well. He had to pay out of pocket for treatment for strep throat because his doctor’s office could not verify his coverage under a plan he enrolled in through New York’s state-operated marketplace, NY State of Health. He hopes to be reimbursed, but he said a series of missteps since he enrolled has left him frustrated. “There was a real lack of organization in the New York health exchange,” he said, adding that he also got confusing information from his new health insurer.
Mr. Lichtman had an individual health plan that, like millions of others, was canceled because it did not meet requirements under the Affordable Care Act. After a few false starts in November — he said he encountered shutdowns at the New York website, and long waits getting questions answered on the phone — he was able to enroll in a new plan through UnitedHealthcare. He paid his first month’s premium through UnitedHealthcare’s website on Dec. 20, and arranged to have his monthly premium automatically deducted from his bank account.
When he called to check on his coverage, he was first told that the plan had no record of his first month’s premium, so he paid it again — only to have the first payment show up, resulting in an overpayment. (He requested a credit and has received it, he said.)

In early January, Mr. Lichtman developed a sore throat and went to his doctor, even though he had not received an insurance card. But the office could not verify his enrollment; a billing clerk tried unsuccessfully to contact both UnitedHealthcare and the New York exchange while he waited.
Mr. Lichtman ended up paying for the visit, as well as for a prescription his doctor gave him for strep. The doctor’s office said it would resubmit his bill and reimburse him once his enrollment was verified.
After several tries, he was able to log into the New York exchange website late one night last week to verify his enrollment. Mr. Lichtman has since received his insurance card in the mail. But he said he ran into trouble getting his plan’s computer system to recognize his choice of a primary care doctor, which is necessary before he can get referrals to specialists. He has been told it will become effective on Feb. 1.
Mr. Lichtman also said that he received an email notifying him of an additional charge of about $900, which turned out to be a bill for another patient that was mistakenly sent to him.
Read the full article HERE

Monday, February 3, 2014

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

House to vote on stopgap funding, PPACA

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is promising to veto, if necessary, a Republican effort to wreck President Barack Obama's health care law as part of House legislation to prevent a partial government shutdown.

The official policy statement, issued Thursday, said the GOP attempt to block "Obamacare" ''advances a narrow ideological agenda that threatens our economy and the interests of the middle class" and would deny "millions of hard-working, middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage."

The veto threat was expected and wasn't going to stop House Republicans from pressing their effort to defund the health care law.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the House will pass a bill Friday to keep the government running while undercutting Obama's health care law.

"The fight over here has been won. The fight over there (in the Senate) is just beginning," Boehner said Thursday. "I expect my Senate colleagues to do everything they can to defund this law, just like the House is going to do."

Boehner also addressed the need for Congress to raise the government's borrowing cap to avoid a first-ever U.S. default on its obligations. Boehner said: "Let me be very clear. Republicans have no interest in defaulting on our debt — none."

While raising the possibility of a government closure, the latest GOP plan is actually aimed at avoiding one. GOP leaders are looking to shift the fight over health care to even more important legislation required to prevent the government from defaulting on its financial obligations.
Even top advocates of the strategy to defund Obama's health care law by attaching it to a stopgap government funding bill acknowledge it has no future in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Senate Democrats have the votes to strip away the health care provision and send the stopgap measure right back to the House.

Continue Reading HERE

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

SHOP delayed on year

CHICAGO (AP) — President Barack Obama's administration is delaying yet another aspect of the health care law. An online health insurance marketplace for small businesses is being put off until November 2014 to make sure the website gets fixed first.

In a conference call with reporters, administration officials said employers who want to buy marketplace plans for their workers now will need to go through an agent, broker or insurance company to buy coverage this year, instead of using a government website. The administration says the plan will still allow small businesses to buy coverage but avoid slowing technical repairs to the hobbled federal online site.

The small business marketplace, also called SHOP, was supposed to provide employers a new way to shop for coverage, and the delay was met with frustration.

"It's disappointing that the online portion of the federal small business marketplace through will be delayed, and it's important it get up and running as soon as possible," said John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority, an advocacy group. "However, it doesn't change the fact that the marketplace can offer the most competitive combination of price and quality for small businesses purchasing health insurance."

Read the full article HERE