Think the canceled health policies hurt the Obamacare cause? There’s another political time bomb lurking that could explode not too long before next year’s elections: rate hikes for small businesses.
Like the canceled individual health plans, it’s another example of a tradeoff that health care experts have long known about, as the new rules for health insurance prices create winners and losers. But most Americans won’t become aware of it until some small business employees learn that their premiums are going up because of a law called — oops — the Affordable Care Act.
Some will learn the opposite, that their premiums are going down because of the law. But as we saw with the canceled individual health plans, it’s the losers who will get most of the attention.
And the timing will be terrible for Democrats: A lot of those small businesses will have to start dealing with their new prices in October — just in time for Republicans to make it an issue in their mid-term election campaigns.
There are no widely accepted estimates for how many people could be affected, but even if it’s a relative minority, it won’t matter politically — because Democrats will once again have to defend the administration’s claims that the majority of Americans who have employer-based insurance won’t be affected by Obamacare.
“The biggest shocker for the small business community is going to hit in October, which is interesting because it will be prime time for the election,” said Jessica Waltman, a top lobbyist at the National Association of Health Underwriters.
Here’s why: Next year, small business health plans — generally those that cover less than 100 workers — will have to comply with a wide range of new rules, particularly the ones that say employees can’t be charged more if they have health problems. Their premiums will only vary based on their age, whether they have individual or family coverage, what part of the country they live in, and whether they use tobacco — and older workers won’t be able to be charged more than three times as much as younger ones.