Republican efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act came to a halt Tuesday as the Senate’s health care bill failed to garner the support needed to pass. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conceded that his party lacked support for the bill, after six months of attempts to pass a replacement for the ACA. McConnell is now moving to pass a repeal bill, with a vote early next week, and that’s causing big worries for many small business owners.
Small business sentiment fell again in June as business owners grew increasingly impatient with gridlock on Capitol Hill, particularly when it comes to passing health care reform legislation. For smaller businesses, providing health care benefits can be a significant expense.
Small business owners and the self-employed already face higher premiums and fewer choices under the ACA than those insured under larger group policies; however, the reality is that the ACA has helped many small businesses afford employee health-care coverage. Before the ACA, coverage was more sparse and premiums even higher. According to a Department of Health and Human Services report, nearly one out of five insurance applicants were denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and more than a third were charged higher rates. Now more than 12 million people have purchased insurance policies through the HealthCare.gov marketplace.
“Small-business owners who are now dependent upon the marketplace for coverage are scared to death that it might go away,” said John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of the advocacy group Small Business Majority.
Linda McMahon, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, endorsed the plan to repeal the ACA without offering a replacement, saying it’s clear “Obamacare is imploding on its own” and that many small business owners who want to provide health care for their employees can’t do it now.
“I certainly don’t feel the repeal portion will be ‘ok, today it stops.’ There will have to be some wind-down period and I think common sense will prevail on how to do that,” McMahon said.
However, other republican policymakers favor a less rushed, more collaborative approach, calling for more committee hearings to craft a health care bill that attracts bipartisan support. According to Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, repealing without a replacement would “create great uncertainty for individuals who rely on the ACA and cause further turmoil in the insurance markets.”