FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: January 14, 2010
Contact:Pamela Finch (518) 514-8833
It’s time for NY to be part of the health care solution
ALBANY –While the federal government hails The New York State Department of Insurance recently (or last week) reported something that most of Oneida County’s small business owners already knew – health insurance premiums are increasing at an alarming rate. Statewide, the increase for 2010 was 17%. For those who are lucky to have health insurance at all, double-digit premium increases have been the norm for more than a decade. Even in the best economic times, health insurance is vital for small businesses to attract and retain qualified, skilled employees. In times like these, however, health insurance is a necessity that an increasing number of small businesses can no longer afford. A survey by National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation found a decline in the number of small businesses offering health insurance, due primarily to cost. One would hope that New York’s leadership would be sympathetic to this problem and consider solutions to give our businesses some degree of relief. Instead, the opposite has occurred. Legislators are now considering several pieces of legislation that will, if passed, increase small business health insurance premiums even more. Here are just a few of the proposals that will exacerbate small business rates:
- S.7000-A – Mandates Coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorder
Health insurance mandates are bills that expand required benefits under private health insurance coverage for small and medium-sized businesses, but generally do not apply to larger companies that can self-insure. Mandates are proven to increase the product cost. Since New York is one of the most heavily-mandated states in the nation, it comes as no surprise that our insurance is among the most costly.
This latest bill requires private insurance to offer expanded treatments to individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD is a broadly defined variety of conditions and across the nation, diagnosis of ADS is rapidly on the rise. Health insurance policies already cover medical conditions associated with ADS. This legislation would require health insurance to now cover services deemed “educational” in nature - setting a trend for our private health insurance to cover items that are not medically-related. The cost of this new coverage to individual policy holders will be anywhere between 2% and 6%. This would be on top of the 12.2% that is already paid to cover the cost of New York’s 51 other health insurance mandates.
- Elimination of the Small Business Subsidy
In 2006 when the legislature adopted the Mental Health Mandate, it also established a $100 million subsidy pool for the sole purpose of helping small businesses offset the costs they would face in paying for the new mandate. Last year, the state Department of Insurance concluded that this amount was adequate to meet the needs of New York’s business community. Despite this acknowledged need for this money, lawmakers reduced the subsidy to $80 million last November and are now proposing an additional $30 million cut, which would reduce the subsidy to half of the necessary amount. No alternatives have been proposed to help the business community offset this added cost.
- $4 billion in fees, assessments and taxes
Any tax on an industry is a tax on the consumer. Health insurance is a business and it remains naive to believe that any industry, whether auto makers, cell phone companies or even health insurers, will absorb any additional costs. In the past fiscal year, health insurance taxes increased by more than $700 million as a result of the 2008-2009 deficit reduction plan and 2009-2010 budget. With these increases, taxes on health insurance in New York now total more than $4 billion annually. Taxing an industry in an effort to close the budget shortfall ultimately harms the consumers.
Even in the best economic times, a 17% increase is tough to absorb. In today’s economy, if this trend goes unstopped it could further erode the struggling economic base, not only in Oneida County, but across the state. It’s time for state lawmakers to stop casting blame and instead, look at how their own actions to stop the increase.
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.