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Universal Health Care Legislation and Small Business

By Neetal Parekh | Last updated on

The House health care legislation introduced earlier in the week notably sets forth a hefty penalty to small businesses who do not provide health insurance to employees.  The Senate's version of health care reform also contains a provision for small business to provide coverage, but gives small business a choice in the matter.

The House bill, which hopes to extend health coverage to the country's 46 million uninsured, comes with a price tag of over one trillion dollars over the next decade and aims to eventually cover 97% of legal residents.  In addition to higher taxes on the country's wealthiest population, the plan calls for more granular accounting of small business health insurance coverage of employees. 

According to the House's proposed plan, small businesses with payrolls of less than $250,000 would be exempt from penalties, those with payrolls ranging from $250,000 to $400,000 would be responsible for healthcare coverage or face a small penalty, and businesses with over $400,000 would be liable for an 8% penalty for failure to provide health insurance. 

The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved its version of health care reform legislation in a 13-10 vote.  The Senate bill mandates that businesses with over 25 employees either provide health care insurance for workers or pay the U.S. government $750 per year per full-time employee.  The bill would also create an interactive exchange where small businesses and individuals could interact to purchase health insurance.  Financing of the Senate Bill has yet to be addressed by the Senate Finance Committee.

It is no doubt that small businesses are casting a discerning eye towards Washington these days as the universal health care bills make their ways through the House and Senate.  The outcomes and effects of the proposed, sweeping healthcare reform will remain to be seen.  But the momentum for government mandated health care has picked up pace with President Obama calling on Congress to "buck up'" and pass health care reform legislation before the August recess.


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