Senator Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, last week unveiled an $856 billion healthcare reform bill that would alter employer-offered insurance requirements for businesses nationwide.
The America's Health Future Act would mandate health insurance for all U.S. citizens – as of January 1, 2013 – but it would not require employers to offer insurance to their employees. However, businesses that do not offer health insurance and that have more than 50 employees would be required to reimburse the government for a portion of the costs incurred by external insurance coverage.
It's not clear just yet if it would be more cost effective for businesses to continue to offer healthcare coverage to employees or reimburse the government for the cost because, and the details of the legislation are bound to change as it moves through Congress. In its present form, the bill would provide tax breaks for individuals and small businesses by creating state insurance marketplaces in the form of non-profit cooperatives, as opposed to a government-run insurance plan. Medicaid eligibility would be vastly expanded under this bill, which would provide government subsidies for middle- to low-income level individuals and families.
With this proposed method, which would allow consumers to compare plans and prices on their own, health care costs would be controlled on the state level, as opposed to the federal level, which is the direction that President Obama had hoped the bill would take.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Dan Danner, president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), was cautiously supportive. "We believe this proposal looks at the markets where small firms buy health insurance, and it makes significant steps to reform the rules for these markets to help increase choice, competition and, ultimately, costs," he said, adding, "This is just the first step in the legislative process and we look forward to working with the chairman and members of the Finance Committee to develop a healthcare reform package that address the needs of small businesses and their employees."