Ackerman helps small biz on healthcare

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When President Barack Obama signed the healthcare reform bill into law in March, many small business owners had questions about how the roughly 2,000 page bill would affect their healthcare coverage and the plans they offer to employees.

In order to clear up some misconceptions and better educate Queens business owners, Congressmember Gary Ackerman hosted a seminar at Flushing Library on April 26, with representatives from the IRS, Health and Human Services Department, Queens Chamber of Commerce, State Senator Toby Stavisky and Assemblymember Grace Meng.

During a nearly hour long presentation to dozens of small business owners, Ackerman spoke about how the new law would impact businesses in three areas: tax credits, shared responsibility and insurance exchanges.

“There is an absolute critical need for healthcare reform in our nation, and we’ve done that,” said Ackerman, who touted that this may have been the first seminar in the country that will inform small businesses about how the changes will impact them. “Nobody would have been able to afford this had we not put this law into effect.”

The first area where small businesses will see changes is tax credits. Ackerman explained that small businesses who want to offer health insurance to their employers could reap tax benefits beginning in 2010 and continuing through 2015 if it meets certain thresholds.

In order to be eligible for tax credits, small businesses must have less than 25 employees and have average annual wages less than $50,000 – excluding owners and partners – while offering health insurance that pays 50 percent toward the cost. Depending on the number of employees and the average wages, businesses can be eligible to receive anywhere from a 2 percent to a 35 percent tax credit from 2010 to 2013 and that maximum credit increases to 50 percent in 2014.

Beginning in 2014, all individuals will be required to have health insurance and all businesses with more than 200 employees would have to offer their employees coverage under shared responsibility. In addition, he spoke about exchanges that will be set up in states beginning in 2014 that will give small businesses increased bargaining power and reduce administrative costs

“We have had a system where insurance companies were in the driver’s seat,” said Rima Cohen, Counselor to the Secretary for Health Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “This put the individuals and businesses in [the driver’s seat] and gives them much more control.”

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