FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: January 14, 2010
Contact:Pamela Finch (518) 514-8833
A Four Point Plan for Affordability
Dear Governor Paterson,
Do not allow the federal health care discussion to draw attention away from the immediate need faced by New York’s small businesses for access to basic, affordable health insurance coverage.
The issue of health insurance costs, overlooked in your recent State of the State message, is the most critical item faced by New York’s small businesses today. Access to basic, affordable health insurance is consistently cited as the top concern of small businesses in an annual survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. This year our members and many other businesses around the state reported astronomical health insurance premium increases that ranged between 17% and 25%.
For small businesses health insurance coverage is simply becoming a necessity that few can afford. In 2008, the average New York employer spent $4,638 per enrolled employee for single coverage and $12,824 for family coverage, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care is a coalition of more than 3,000 small business owners and sole proprietors who believe everyone should have access to basic, affordable health insurance. We oppose state mandates that are placed on health insurance policies that dictate types of coverage to be included, impose costly changes to our insurance process and increase taxes on health care — the ultimate consumer-borne mandate.
As you plan for the 2010-2011 budget, we respectfully ask that you consider the following Four Point Plan for Affordability. Our members and their employees want to remain a viable part of the re-growth needed in New York State. Basic, affordable coverage is vital to our success.
A Four Point Plan for Affordability
- Take a “wait and see” attitude. For the duration of the upcoming fiscal year, place a moratorium on the passage of all new health insurance mandates.
- As the federal government moves ahead with a national health care reform policy, New York is best-served by a moratorium on any new health insurance mandates. This holds true both for coverage mandates and costly process mandates imposed on health insurers that ultimately raise consumer costs. Such prudence is especially necessary to ensure that New York consumers receive the maximum benefit from federal health care reform.
- Just as you have called for a moratorium on state mandates to relieve the burden on property tax payers, New York’s small businesses deserve the same consideration - relief from skyrocketing health insurance premiums that can result from a moratorium on health insurance mandates.
- Hold the line on any additional fees, taxes or assessments on health insurance, especially those that have no direct impact on consumer care. Health insurance is a business and, thus, any increases that are placed on carriers are ultimately borne by consumers.
- HCRA imposes numerous “surcharges” on health insurance including the Covered Lives Assessment and Patient Services Assessment. Call them what you may, but these are taxes, along with the Section 332 Assessment paid by all New York insurers, that are ultimately passed along to consumers. In the past fiscal year alone, taxes increased by $853 million as a result of the 2008-2009 deficit reduction plan and 2009-2010 budget.
- We specifically ask that you re-evaluate use of the $455 million that is currently paid under the auspices of a 332 Assessment, the purpose of which was originally to fund the Department of Insurance operations. This money is paid by consumers and yet does nothing to benefit our health care. Instead, it is now being used to fund other areas of the state budget.
- Restore, and maintain, the $100 million small business subsidy allocated to offset costs of the Mental Health Mandate.
- The $100 million subsidy was included in the 2006 Mental Health Parity law specifically to address the financial burden that small businesses face not only from this, but all health insurance mandates. The insurance department’s own findings indicate that this is a reasonable amount needed to offset the additional financial burden and yet, despite this knowledge, the last deficit reduction plan reduced the money available to $79,743,000. Restore this money for its original intended purpose. Taking any other action does nothing more than worsen an already devastating economic problem.
- Staff and utilize the Health Care Quality and Cost Containment Commission.
- Use of this resource is long overdue. It is counterproductive to proceed with any action that could detrimentally impact small businesses, especially when you now have means at your disposal to gather pertinent information to assist with the decision-making process.
- Twenty-six other states currently utilize this type of commission to evaluate the cost and medical efficacy of any additional health insurance mandate proposals. New York’s legislature would be remiss to adopt any new health insurance mandates without prior evaluation by this commission. Give them the tool needed to make this happen.
Many small businesses survived the recession — barely. Now they find that their ability to access health insurance for themselves and their employees is being quickly eroded by the very state that committed to help their economic growth. While your State of the State message recognized our importance, it failed to address the very issue that remains critical to the health and well being of our businesses and employees.
The Employer Alliance for Affordable Health Care is a coalition of more than 3,400 employers and individuals from across New York, representing more than 200,000 working New Yorkers, committed to preserving quality affordable health care.