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Related News

Legislature Sends Autism Mandate to Governor

On the last day before the Legislature was scheduled to adjourn for spring break, the House and Senate voted to send the controversial Autism Insurance Mandate legislation to the Governor.  Governor Snyder is expected to sign the legislation on April 2nd.   

SB 414 and SB 415 passed the House 91-19, and SB 981 passed 84-26. Immediate effect was ordered for all three. The no votes on SB 0981, which connects a $15 million dollar appropriation geared to help curb the costs of the mandate, were split between 21 Republicans and five Democrats.

The bills mandate coverage for autism in all insurance plans.  SBAM is generally supportive of measures that helps lower costs of care and allows increased access to treatment options for all health matters, including autism.  However, SBAM has long opposed any and all attempts to accomplish this through mandated benefits, as it foists the financial burden exclusively on small businesses and individuals through increased co-premiums, co-pays and deductibles.
SBAM applauds those who opposed the insurance mandate outlined SB 414 and SB 415.  Of the 19 voting against the measure in the House, all no votes came from Republicans.  SBAM members are encouraged to contact the following House members to thank them for standing with small businesses struggling to afford health insurance for their employees: Dave Agema (R-Grandville), Jeff Farrinton (R-Utica), Ray Franz (R-Onekama),  Bob Genetski (R-Saugatuck), Ken Goike (R-Ray), Joe Haveman (R-Holland), Matt Huuki (R-Atlantic Mine), Joel Johnson (R-Clare), Andrea LaFontaine (R-Richmond), Pete Lund (R-Shelby Township), Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills), Chuck Moss (R-Birmingham), Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), Paul Opsommer (R-DeWitt), Earl Poleski (R-Jackson), Amanda Price (R-Holland), and Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake).  

As part of the debate, mental health advocates argued that the bill should be amended to include full mental health parity by mandating coverage for all neuropsychiatric disorders.  Amending it in that manner would have meant crushing cost increases in insurance premiums for small business owners.  Fortunately, those attempts were thwarted.  

Recognizing the tremendous impact the mandate would have on premiums, legislative leaders and the governor’s office included a structure whereby reimbursements could be made from the state for any autism-related claims and added a $50,000 cap on individual claims.  However, the appropriation that would reimburse claims is still in flux, as state leaders are still debating next year’s budget priorities. 

SBAM will continue to oppose any and all health insurance mandates due to the direct negative impact they have on a small business owner’s ability to provide his/her employees healthcare benefits.

Durbin Amendment Provides for Lower Credit Card Processing Rates

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner Midwest Transaction Group

As a result of the Durbin Amendment, the Federal Reserve Board has placed a cap on debit card transactions, putting the interchange fee at 0.05% + 21 cents. This new fee went into effect on October 1, 2011. This could mean significant savings for you!

Keep in mind:
  • The cap only applies to debit cards issued by very large banks - it does not include those issued by smaller, community banks or credit unions.  Therefore, some debit card interchange fees will not change.
  • The best way to ensure that you are going to get these new lower fees is to move to the Interchange Plus pricing model. It is the only model that will automatically pass through the interchange fees at their exact cost, including the new lower debit card fee.
  • When you move to Interchange Plus pricing, the new debit fee is not the only fee that can be effected. This model gives processors the ability to better analyze data and potentially offer you even more savings.
  • The move to Interchange Plus is easy. If you are already processing with MTG, all you need to do is call us. If you aren't processing with us, we encourage you to contact your current processor and ask to be moved as soon as possible.
It is not often that government involvement means lower costs for business owners, but this time you could realize some significant savings. Take time to give MTG a call at (888) 599-2209 or request a quote here so you can learn about the benefits of Interchange Plus pricing. Be sure your business takes advantage of all the savings the Durbin Amendment’s new cap on debit fees can provide.

New Guidance Issued on Health Care Reform: Auto Enrollment, Waiting Periods and Full-Time Employees

By Stephanie Hicks, courtesy of Clark Hill PLC, an SBAM Approved Partner
On Feb. 9, 2012, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury (the Departments) issued Technical Release No. 2012-01 (the Release). The Release provides information regarding PPACA provisions governing automatic enrollment, employer shared responsibility and the 90-day limitation on waiting periods. The Release also outlines various approaches that the Departments are considering proposing in future regulations or other guidance.
A.  Automatic Enrollment Compliance May be Delayed
PPACA requires an employer that has more than 200 full-time employees to automatically enroll new full-time employees in one of the employer's group health plans (subject to any waiting period authorized by law), and to continue the enrollment of current employees in a group health plan offered through the employer. In the Release, the DOL concluded that its automatic enrollment guidance will not be ready to take effect by 2014. It remains the DOL's view that, until final regulations regarding automatic enrollment are issued and become applicable, employers are not required to comply with the automatic enrollment provisions of PPACA.
B.  Determining Who is a Full-Time Employee
PPACA also enacted employer shared responsibility provisions. These provisions provide that an employer with 50 or more full-time employees could be subject to a penalty if the employer does not offer its full-time employees (and their dependents) the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage under an eligible employer-sponsored plan. The employer also may face a penalty if the employer offers its full-time employees (and their dependents) the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage under an eligible employer-sponsored plan that either is unaffordable relative to an employee's household income or does not provide minimum value. For purposes of the employer shared responsibility provisions, a "full-time employee" is an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours per week.
The Release states that upcoming guidance on the employer shared responsibility provisions is expected to provide that, at least for the first three months following an employee's date of hire, an employer that sponsors a group health plan will not, by reason of failing to offer coverage to the employee under its plan during that three-month period, be subject to the penalty payment. Additionally, the Release states the Department of Treasury and the IRS intend to issue proposed regulations or other guidance that would allow employers to use a "look-back/stability period safe harbor" method for purposes of determining whether an employee (other than a newly-hired employee) is a full-time employee. Accordingly, it is anticipated that the guidance will allow look-back and stability periods not exceeding 12 months. The Department of Treasury and the IRS also intend to issue proposed regulations or other guidance that will address how to determine whether a newly-hired employee is a full-time employee for purposes of the employer shared responsibility provisions. The guidance is expected to provide that, in certain circumstances, employers have six months to determine whether a newly-hired employee is a full-time employee for purposes of the employer shared responsibility provisions and will not be subject to the penalty payment during that six-month period with respect to that employee.
The Department of Treasury and the IRS intend to propose an approach under which the period of time that an employer will have to determine whether a newly-hired employee is a full-time employee will depend upon whether, base

Small Biz Tax Bills Introduced in House and Senate

From SBAM's national affiliate, NSBA:

Leaders in both the House and Senate have offered varying small-business tax packages. The first was offered last week by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), backed by House Ways And Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) which would offer a 20 percent tax deduction for small businesses. The second package was introduced Monday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) which would provide a hiring tax credit as well as extend the 2011-level bonus depreciation which expired at the end of last year.

House Tax Package

The Small Business Tax Cut Act (H.R. 9), was introduced on March 21 and will allow businesses with fewer than 500 employees to take a tax deduction equal to 20 percent—for one year—of their active business income. This deduction also would apply to pass-through entities, which compose the majority of small businesses. Chairman Camp indicated at its introduction that the committee will consider the legislation and aims to hold a markup of the measure on March 28.

In the case of a qualified small business, the provision allows a deduction for 20 percent of qualified domestic business income of the taxpayer for the taxable year, or taxable income for the taxable year, whichever is less. However, a taxpayer’s deduction for any taxable year may not exceed 50 percent of certain W-2 wages of the qualified small business.

The bill would make the deduction more easily available than a version introduced in 2010, which contained dozens of exclusions including accounting firms, actuarial firms, financial services and brokerage firms, among others. Cantor also opted to use the U.S. Small Business Administration’s definition of a small business to determine who qualifies for the tax cut: “any employer engaged in a trade or business if such employer had fewer than 500 full-time equivalent employees for either calendar year 2010 or 2011.”

The House is expected to take up the bill during the week of April 16. Cantor said his decision to pursue the narrowly crafted measure is based “on the same concept as behind the JOBS Act,” which passed the House by a wide bipartisan margin. He has indicated that he would like to drive toward overall tax reform this year but that he views the 20 percent tax cut as a necessary step “while we are working toward that goal.”

Senate Tax Package

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Reid, unveiled a $26 billion tax-cut bill on March 26. The Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act of 2012 is designed to give small businesses a 10-percent income tax credit on new payroll for hiring new workers or increasing employee wages and will allow businesses to fully deduct the cost of significant investments made this year. The $26 billion in tax cuts would be temporary and apply only to 2012 wages and investments.

The bill sets a limit on the hiring tax credit at a maximum increase in eligible wages of $5 million per employer and the amount of the credit would be capped at $500,000.

As part of efforts to help stimulate the economy, Congress approved for 2011 expanded bonus depreciation of 100 percent of the purchase of new equipment placed in service in 2011. However, because Congress failed to extend that provision, it reverted to just 50 percent in 2012 and--unless additional language passes--will go away entirely in 2013. The Reid/Schumer tax package would only extend full depreciation for 2012.

While both measures could be positive for small businesses, the only true way to ensure fairness, transparency and eased complexity of the U.S. tax code is broad tax reform. Such broad reform is the best approach to spur long-term job creation, rather than piecemeal fixes.

Click here to listen! Exclusive SBAM audio seminar of the week (5:21)

Learn about a great new tool for securing college interns at your small business. Click on the play button below to listen to SBAM's Vice President Communications Michael Rogers talk with Wendy Pittman, executive director of the Intern in Michigan project. Hear more free Business Next audio seminars by going to sbam.org/radio. Like this interview? Suggestions for improvement? Leave a comment below.