Advocacy

In Support of Small Business

You have a business to run, so the team at SBAM constantly monitors issues affecting small business so you don’t have to.  SBAM also helps to give you and other small business owners a voice in the democratic process by connecting members with influential policymakers.

You can help protect your small business and help bolster Michigan’s entrepreneurs by getting involved today.

SBAM has an easy way for you to contact your elected officials. Take action now and voice your support for small business by:

  • Contacting your legislators
  • Examining voting records   
  • Locating your elected officials
  • Tracking key issues
  • Learning about elections

Policy Agenda

SBAM recently released its Small Business Policy Agenda. Download your copy here.

 

Latest Legislative News

The state legislature makes it easier to crowdfund your next small business idea. Today on Business Next.

On this week’s small business legislative update, SBAM’s Director of Government Relations Dave Jessup talks about the legislature’s approval of a measure that makes “crowdfunding” financing easier for small businesses.

Also today, excerpts from a panel discussion at the recent Making it in Michigan conference in Lansing. The discussion revolved around how to handle the challenges of accelerated growth in a small business. The panelists were Victoria Les, owner of Pierogi Gals; William Branch of Corridor Sausage Company, Randy Lockwood of Sauce Gone Wild and Bisera Urdarevik of Lush Gourmet Foods. Also today from the Making it in Michigan conference, interviews with Chris Peterson, director of the MSU Product Center, and Matt Kella of Loon Hardwoods LLC.

Listen Monday at 10-11 a.m. ET (replay at 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.) at www.michiganbusinessnetwork.com. Downloadable podcast versions of previous shows available here.

Small businesses say ACA’s aggregation rules unfair

From WSJ.com, by By Sarah E. Needleman

Donna Baker of Adrian, Mich., owns an accounting firm, payroll company and retail store. Her husband, Kim, is the sixth generation owner of a dairy farm.

While the four businesses are separate entities, they count as one employer under the health-care law due to a technicality — Mrs. Baker is a minority stakeholder in the 1,800-acre property that her husband’s farm sits on, plus she helps out with some of the farm’s bookkeeping.

As a result, the Bakers are subject to aggregation rules in the U.S. tax code, which means they would be required to offer health-insurance benefits to their combined full-time staff — if it reaches 50 employees — starting in 2015, or pay a penalty.

“I’m just an investor in the farm,” says Mrs. Baker, who testified on the issue during a Congressional hearing Wednesday before the House Small Business Committee. “I am not running the day-to-day operations.”

The Bakers collectively employ just shy of 50 full-time workers, the threshold in which employers must provide health-care benefits to comply with the law. If they expand their headcounts in the coming year to 50 or more people, they would be subject to the mandate.

But while Mrs. Baker, 51 years old, says her payroll business is young and growing, she is hesitant to hire more staff. She says she’s already struggling to afford health benefits for existing employees at two of her firms and that having to start covering her husband’s eight full-time farm workers and future full-time recruits to any of their businesses would be too costly.

Wednesday’s hearing also included testimony from business experts such as Debbie Walker, an accountant for more than 35 years in Washington, D.C. She says it’s likely that many entrepreneurs won’t realize they are subject to the law’s aggregation rules – which apply mainly to entrepreneurs who own assets or have financial stakes in multiple businesses – until it’s too late. “The rules are just too complicated,” she says.

Here’s an example: Ms. Walker says if a mother buys a stake in her son’s dog-grooming business and then she invests in her neighbor’s hair salon, the two entities could be considered one employer under the law, depending on the amount she invested in each. It wouldn’t matter if the mother isn’t involved in running either entity, or even if the two entrepreneurs have nothing else in common but her investment, she adds.

“The calculations are complex and many small businesses will be caught unaware,” said Todd McCracken, president and CEO of the National Small Business Association, via email. Other business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, International Franchise Association and the National Federation of Independent Business, have also expressed concern over how the aggregation rules apply the health law.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Treasury declined to comment. During the hearing, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D., N.Y.) said the aggregation rules are meant to prevent businesses from “skirting the law.”

One set of small-business owners most likely to be affected are franchisees such as Stephen Bienko of Allamuchy, N.J.

The 36-year-old entrepreneur owns four junk-hauling and moving franchises along the East Coast, each with about 25 employees. But come 2015, the businesses will be considered one employer under the health law, making them all subject to the employer mandate.

Mr. Bienko, who currently offers health benefits to only staffers who work more than 40 hours a week, says he estimates it will cost him an extra $125,000 a year, if all those newly eligible for employer coverage by law elect to take it.

The employer mandate defines fu

The Blues will continue effort to transition small groups and individuals to reform compliant plans instead of continuing non-compliant plans

Article courtesy of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

The Blues will continue effort to transition small groups and individuals to reform compliant plans instead of continuing non-compliant plans.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network today announced that they will continue transitioning small groups and individuals into health plans that meet the benefit requirements of the Affordable Care Act instead of continuing current non-compliant plans.

The decision to continue transitioning small groups and members into reform compliant products was based on a number of factors — all affecting the short- and long-term affordability of coverage for small groups and individuals.

Small groups
  • Small group customers offered options to keep 2013 plans — Small groups had an opportunity earlier this year to change their “plan year” to November or December thereby keeping their current Blues plan through 2014. The majority of small groups are transitioning into compliant plans.
  • Avoiding increased rates in current plans — Since the ACA was signed into law in 2010, the Blues have planned for legacy policies to no longer be available as of Jan. 1, 2014. Keeping the plans open in 2014 would require a “catch-up” premium rate increase.
Individual members
Subsidies help lower costs for many businesses and individuals — Individuals can’t apply for subsidies if they remain in their non-reform plan. The Blues estimate that about 50 percent of its current individual product membership is eligible for ACA subsidies that could get them better coverage at lower prices.

Individual members offered option for non-compliant plan
  • Some time ago we made a decision to offer Keep Fit for 2014. Individuals currently enrolled in either our Keep Fit (PPO) or Personal Plus (HMO) plan can keep it through 2014.
  • Any member who enrolled in a new, qualified health plan on the Marketplace, or through an agent, an HPA, or online is not affected by this. They have coverage beginning Jan. 1.
  • Those who have not enrolled in a new plan will be transitioned to a Keep Fit plan effective on Dec. 31, 2013. They will receive a letter with their options to stay covered after their plan closes. They can accept this option simply by paying the premium bill they will receive in mid-December. Individuals who choose to stay in a non-reform plan are not eligible for subsidies.
  • They also have the option to enroll in our new products that are compliant with the Affordable Care Act and contain the full array of essential health benefits provided for by federal law until Dec. 15, 2013.
  • The goal is to ensure that no one goes a day without coverage and we are taking the steps necessary to make that happen.
Avoiding increased rates in current individual plans — Since the ACA was signed into law in 2010, the Blues have planned for non-reform policies to no longer be available as of Jan. 1, 2014. In the individual market, Blue Cross has not increased rates on those plans since 2011. Keeping the plans open in 2014 would require a “catch-up” premium rate increase approximating 30 percent.

Governor's office allowing health insurers to reinstate canceled policies

By Scott Lyon, Senior Vice President

Edited to add: Since the below article was initially published, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network issued a statement that the Blues will continue the effort to transition small groups and individuals to reform compliant plans instead of continuing non-compliant plans.

Just a few minutes ago, the governor’s office released the below statement regarding the ability of insurance carriers to offer non-Affordable Care Act plan designs.  This is an ongoing story that continues to be written, as the next series of decisions must be made by our insurance companies.  In our opinion, the closer this decision gets to policyholders the more complicated it gets.  As discussed in a previous article, this decision is being reviewed from both a logical and logistical perspective. 

For the President’s “fix” to work, carriers face many difficult decisions and little time in which to make them.  Carriers will have to breathe new life into old plans within the next 30 days. That involves figuring out how much these plans should cost; submitting the plans to the state for approval; communicating the new plans to individuals and groups, many that have already made changes; enrolling customers into new plans; setting up the billing process; and many other things that will be very difficult to do on a short time-frame.

Additionally, if a state and carrier decides to move forward and allow plans that have been, or were scheduled to be canceled to renew, insurance carriers must tell policyholders that their plans do not meet the new minimum standards and must inform them about other options on the Exchange, including the availability of any subsidies. This sets up the very real possibility of adverse selection between the pools with the young and healthy keeping their current plans and those with pre-existing conditions selecting the plans under the ACA – that is a real problem for insurance carriers to reconcile.

As this issue unfolds over the coming days and weeks, you can always count on SBAM to be your source for accurate and up to date information.

Here is a copy of the governor's press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 22, 2013
Media Contact: Caleb Buhs at 517-373-2380
Consumer Hotline: 877-999-6442
http://twitter.com/midifs

LANSING, Mich -- In an effort to aid Michiganders whose health insurance policies were canceled as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services Director (DIFS) Ann Flood announced today that, after careful review and analysis, Michigan is allowing health insurers to reinstate canceled policies.

“The announcement of the federal policy change this close to January 1 came as a surprise,” said Flood. “We considered the difficulties that this change will create for insurers, but the decision came down to the fact that consumers in Michigan deserve to have options, particularly given the difficulty they’ve had accessing the federal Marketplace.”

Gov. Rick Snyder concurred with Director Flood’s decision.

“A healthier Michigan is an important part of our state’s continued comeback, but unfortunately Michiganders have seen their health insurance plans canceled under the Affordable Care Act after they were promised they wouldn’t lose them,” Snyder said. “Now, this policy change opens the door for those ca

This week’s small business legislative update, and what you need to know about marketing in 2014. Today on Business Next.

Hear this week’s small business legislative update with SBAM’s Director of Government Relations Dave Jessup. Also, Nicole Meloche, president of Organik Consulting, discusses key things you need to know when planning your 2014 marketing budget.

Listen Friday at 10-11 a.m. ET (replay at 3 p.m., 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.) at MichiganBusinessNetwork.com. Downloadable podcast versions of previous shows available here.

BIGGBY co-founder: "The environment for business in Michigan has improved dramatically”

Article and video courtesy of the Office of the Governor

Last year, Michigan's small businesses reportedly created more than 14,300 jobs in our state, and they remain an important part of our state's comeback. So what do small business owners think about their future in Michigan? We asked BIGGBY COFFEE co-founder (and SBAM Board Chairman) Bob Fish for his opinion.

"In the last two years, the environment for business in Michigan has improved dramatically," Fish said. He points to the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax as one key reason that things have gotten better for job creators, and he credits Governor Snyder's policies for planting the seeds to help entrepreneurship thrive.

"What he's really doing is improving the infrastructure, the long-term view of what it means to be employed in Michigan, or what it means to create your own job, or what it means to create your own company," Fish explained. "So that long view is, 'We're going to take care of all the things that are barriers today to employment, barriers today to growing your own business' -- and I love that particular viewpoint, that long viewpoint."

President’s message on Affordable Care Act impacts individual and small group plans

At the Small Business Association of Michigan, we have promised to keep you up to date and informed on news regarding the Affordable Care Act and its impact on your business and your employees.  Yesterday, there was a major announcement from the White House.  We are working hard to both understand the announcement’s implications and adjust for the future.

In an effort to repair damage to the Affordable Care Act roll-out, President Obama announced a plan to let insurance companies renew for one year the health plans for individual and small business customers whose policies would otherwise be terminated. See the letter to insurance commissioners.

Essentially, the message is that insurance carriers may extend through 2014 the policies that do not meet the minimum standards of the Affordable Care Act.  But it is nowhere near that simple.

The decision on whether or not to allow insurance carriers to extend these policies will be made on a state-by-state basis; having been left up to insurance commissioners to allow the “fix” to go forward.  Therefore, the first decision must be made by Michigan’s Department of Insurance and Financial Services Commissioner Ann Flood and then by individual insurance carriers.

From our perspective, this announcement from the White House leaves many unanswered questions and certainly complicates an already confusing world of individual and small group health insurance.  This decision must be reviewed from both a logical and logistical perspective.  For the President’s “fix” to work, carriers face many difficult decisions and little time in which to make them.  Carriers will have to breathe new life into old plans within 30 days. That involves figuring out how much these plans should cost; submitting the plans to the state for approval; communicating the new plans to individuals and groups, many that have already made changes; enrolling customers into new plans; setting up the billing process; and many other things that will be very difficult to do on a short time-frame.

Additionally, if a state and carrier decides to move forward and allow plans that have been, or were scheduled to be cancelled to renew, insurance carriers must tell policyholders that their plans do not meet the new minimum standards and must inform them about other options on the Exchange, including the availability of any subsidies. This sets up the very real possibility of adverse selection between the pools with the young and healthy keeping their current plans and those with pre-existing conditions selecting the plans under the ACA – that is a real problem for insurance carriers to reconcile.

We have been in touch with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network and they are considering their options.  We received this message:  

"We monitored today’s remarks by President Obama, but we will need to review and understand the changes he is proposing in the ACA regulations before we are able to let you know the impact of those changes on coverage.  We will be notifying all of our members of how this will affect them in the near future. We ask that you to continue to monitor the media and our Blues blog at mibluesperspectives.com for more information. We will also notify all of our members of their options as outlined by the President."

As this issue unfolds over the coming days and weeks, you can always count on SBAM to be your source for accurate and up to date information. 
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