Good afternoon, and thank you for joining me at the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee’s first field hearing of the new Congress in Bossier City, Louisiana.
In my new role as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I will make important efforts to lend small businesses a larger voice to Congress, shape policies that will grow our energy industry, get rid of the government impediments to growth, reduce the tax burden on small businesses, and of course, repeal and replace Obamacare.
Today’s discussion will focus on the many struggles small businesses face in navigating Obamacare, and how Congress has avoided these negative consequences of the law by giving themselves an exemption.
I invited two federal witnesses to join us today: Katherine Archuleta, Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and Mark Mazur, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy at the Department of Treasury. While I am disappointed both these federal officials declined our invitation, I will continue to seek answers from those who are implementing Obamacare on a federal level, regarding Congress’s special treatment under the health care law.
I would like to welcome and introduce our four witnesses who are all business leaders in the Shreveport community: Hedy Hebert, a Partner at Benefits Consulting; Debbie Martin, President of North Shreveport Business Association; David Scruggs, CEO of Piggly Wiggly and Save A Lot Grocery Stores; and Brenda Little, Health Care Administrator at Jean Simpson Personnel Services.
Navigating excessive regulations from multiple federal agencies, increased taxes, and higher costs while continuing to provide quality services to your customers and growing your business, is no small task. I appreciate you taking time away from your businesses to share your experiences in dealing with Obamacare and look forward to your testimony.
Unfortunately, we will hear the same message that small businesses have been trying to tell their elected officials for almost five years now. Obamacare’s burden on small businesses can be summed up in one comment I heard from a local leader, “For the first time small businesses are trying not to grow.”
Because Congress is exempted from the law, it is difficult for them to understand the daily struggles small businesses in their states and districts now face. That is why I introduced legislation that simply restores the rule of law and says that Congress will live under the same rules, and experience it in the same way as their constituents.
Examples of the key differences between how Congress is treated under Obamacare versus the rest of America are:
1. Small businesses have limited access to financial assistance.
• In 2014 a temporary, two-year, small business tax credit was made available for small businesses with 10 or fewer employees. For firms with 11 to 25 employees, the credit is reduced. Firms with more than 25 employees are ineligible for the credit.
• However, Congress who employs 16,000 workers receives a subsidy covering 75 percent of their health premiums- an amount offered to no other American at their income level.
2. Small businesses have limited health care options for workers on SHOP Exchange.
• In March 2013, HHS announced that the federal SHOP Exchange would not be offering employees a choice of plans or offering employers premium aggregation during 2014. Employers would only be able to offer their employees a single plan through the SHOP exchange for the first year. Louisiana is among the states with a Federally-facilitated (FF) SHOP Exchange that only offers employees a single qualified health plan option.
• Members and “official staff” who purchased health insurance through the DC SHOP Exchange had 196 different policy options for health insurance.
3. 30-hour work week requirement is killing jobs and impeding growth
• In order to force more employers to provide full health coverage for their workers, the Department of Labor changed America’s definition of “full-time worker” to an employee that works an average of 130 hours a month or 30 hours per week.
• Starting in 2015, employers with 100 or more full time workers will be subject to the employer mandate using 2014 workforce data. In 2016, employers with 50 or more workers will be subject to the employer mandate using 2015 workforce data.
• This means that large and small businesses will have to keep these calculations throughout the year on a monthly basis to determine whether or not they will be subject to the employer mandate next year.
• As a result half of small business owners polled by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce indicated they would either cut employee hours or employ fewer full-time workers to avoid Obamacare’s requirement that employees working over 30 hours a week receive employer-sponsored health insurance.
• The American Action Forum study also indicated significant wage losses for employees as a result of the 30 hour work week regulation. In Louisiana, workers in businesses with 50-99 employees experienced an average loss of $394.19 in 2014.
• As Chairman of the Small Business Committee and lead co-author of the “40 Hours is Full Time Act,” I will work to repeal the 30-hour rule and relieve small businesses from the job-killing regulation.
The Affordable Care Act remains one of the biggest impediments to job creation and economic growth, and I am committed to repealing and replacing it with something that works for the American people. Small businesses should be empowered to innovate, grow their businesses, hire more workers, and achieve the American dream. Unfortunately, that is not the case under Obamacare. I will continue to seek answers to my questions regarding Congress’ special treatment under the health care law, and will work to end Washington’s exemption from Obamacare. In the meantime, it is certainly very important to hear directly from those small businesses who have to live with Obamacare without Congress’ special exemption.
Thank you for being here today and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.