Obamacare at Three Years: Failing Small Businesses

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One of Obamacare’s many failures is the temporary small business tax credit, which is intended to encourage small employers to offer health insurance to their employees by partially offsetting the cost. Thus far it has largely failed to do so.

Initially, the IRS estimated that 4.4 million taxpayers could have been eligible for the credit. As J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, testified before Congress, “The IRS mailed approximately 4.4 million postcards at a reported cost of approximately $1 million, with basic information on the Credit to businesses that could be affected.”

But even after spending $1 million to advertise the credit, only 7 percent of potentially eligible employers claimed it. As George testified: “[T]hrough mid-October 2011, the IRS reported that 309,000 taxpayers…had claimed the Credit for a total amount of $416 million. This is substantially lower than the Congressional Budget Office estimate that taxpayers would claim up to $2 billion of Credit for Tax Year 2010.”

The Government Accountability Office, in an analysis of the credit’s low use and complexity, largely attributed the low claim rate to the credit’s design. The credit amount wasn’t high enough to incentivize employers to offer coverage, and it was too complex and time-consuming to file for.

Speaking of ineffective provisions in Obamacare, the Administration has recently delayed the meaningful aspects of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). While the SHOP exchange held little benefit to begin with, postponing the ability for employees to choose their health plan and premium aggregation has now rendered it entirely worthless. As Tim Jost writes in Health Affairs:

This delay will undoubtedly disappoint those who have seen employee choice as the primary benefit of the SHOP exchange. It also leaves unclear what advantage the SHOP exchange offers employers over the outside small-group market. Employers who qualify for the small-employer premium tax credit will still be able to qualify only through the exchange, but other employers are likely to find the SHOP exchange largely indistinguishable from the outside market.

As the full implementation of Obamacare nears, this is likely just the beginning of Obamacare’s failures for small employers.

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