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Business offers health care prescription in uncertain times

March 1, 2017

Article courtesy of MIRS News Service

A trio of business association officials Tuesday offered up their prescription for lowering health care costs to the House Health Policy Committee in the face of a presumed repeal and replace of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“I can tell you in my experience, I cannot remember the last time that Washington had its thumb on the scale so heavily in health care,” admitted Rob FOWLER, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan.

“The repeal and replace activities going on in Washington are going to have some enormous impacts on our members,” he added. “The question is, what’s your role and what’s the state’s role going to be?”

On the larger scale, Fowler suggested moving away from public subsidization of premiums and toward high-risk pool subsidies.

One percent of patients in the health care system generate 21 percent of the costs. If tax dollars went to care for that one percent, it would remove that 21 percent cost now carried by employer-funded health care insurance.

“What if we could come up with a way to take the costs of the top 1 percent out?” Fowler asked.

Wendy BLOCK, director of health policy and human resources for the Michigan Chamber, asked the panel to limit state involvement in “innovative insurance plans” that employers construct to lower costs.

“The Michigan Chamber believes true health reform can’t be achieved if the focus is on rules and regulation and government intervention,” she said.

Between 1999 and 2016, the average cost for employers to provide families with health care coverage rose from $5,000 to $18,000, or 360 percent. Meanwhile, inflation has increased only 44 percent, she said.

She noted that 53 percent of insured Michigan residents obtain their coverage through their employers. Of business types, in 2015, 90.5 percent of firms with 50 or more employees provided health care insurance. For small businesses (those with 50 or fewer employees) 30 percent provide coverage.

A third member of the business panel addressing the committee raised the business community’s argument against the Health Insurance Claims Assessment, or HICA tax, which levies a one-percent tax on all health insurance claims.

“No other state has a health care tax of this size and scope,” said Delaney McKINLEY, director of human resource policy and membership development for the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA).

McKinley noted that the tax would have added $1.5 billion to the cost of employers trying to provide health care insurance for workers and their families.

“Michigan punishes them (businesses providing insurance),” McKinley added. “One of my members likens this to spanking your kids for doing the dishes.”

During the last session, the House and Senate passed legislation the business community backed that would eliminate the HICA tax, but it was vetoed by Gov. Rick SNYDER.

A reworked version of the bill uses the use tax on Medicaid managed care to collect the state’s Medicaid match whenever the HICA expires, which is 2020 at the latest.

Today’s testimony is the second in a series of hearings Committee Chair Hank VAUPEL (R-Fowlerville) is holding looking at the larger issue of health care and possible pending reforms that state lawmakers may have to deal with. Next week, the panel will hear from the insurance community.

As the panel waits to see what Washington D.C. does with ACA repeal and replace, Vaupel said his committee will be working on opioid addiction legislation as well as increasing education to mitigate the impacts of fetal alcohol syndrome.

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