WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) today voted against the House Republican majority’s bill that would repeal consumer protections in some employer health plans, marking the GOP’s 53rd attempt to undermine, roll back, or repeal the Affordable Care Act. Under the bill, insurance companies could sell 2013 policies to any employer in the small group market through 2018, which would increase premiums and costs for small businesses and their employees.
“The overwhelming majority of companies in this country – about 96 percent - are small businesses that have always been exempt from the ACA’s provisions. Since the law’s enactment, I have supported multiple efforts to improve its employer provisions and give mid-size and larger businesses the time and resources they need to adjust,” Himes said. “Unfortunately, this bill is yet another partisan attempt to undermine health care reform, especially protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and would likely increase costs for workers and small businesses.”
The bill would allow insurance companies to continue selling 2013 policies that do not meet the ACA’s requirements to any employer in the small group market for the next five years, regardless of whether or not that business had the policy last year. Such plans would not have to include minimum coverage benefits for essential items like prescription drugs and could impose annual limits, leading to significant gaps in coverage and out-of-pocket costs for employees. They could also, among other discriminatory practices, charge higher premiums for small businesses that employ women, older workers, and workers with any pre-existing condition ranging from asthma to cancer.
Allowing new businesses to buy non-compliant plans will likely lead to an imbalanced small group market, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which will create significant cost discrepancies for businesses. Insurers would largely sell these plans to companies with younger and healthier employees, driving up premiums to unaffordable levels for those that have a larger percentage of women, older, or sick workers.
According the newly released annual Employer Health Benefits Survey, prepared by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust, employer premiums rose by a historically-low three percent for families and two percent for individual coverage in 2014, marking significant progress from the double-digit annual increases often seen in the decades prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act. The study also notes that roughly the same percentage of businesses are offering coverage in 2014, further good news for employees during implementation of market reforms.