When the governor, legislative leadership and the Chamber come out against a tax increase, you can usually feel pretty secure. But there’s an interesting issue on Utah’s Capitol Hill this year, and it has everything to do with the cost—and potentially the availability—of your health insurance.
Call it the biggest hidden tax you’ve never heard about.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), a.k.a the Affordable Care Act (ACA) a.k.a “Obamacare” passed the Congress in late 2010, with implementation of the plan set to take place in stages until the full law is in effect in 2018.
The biggest ACA-related changes go into effect in 2014. The details are readily available online but, in short, that’s when access to health coverage increases (a good thing), but without cost-containing measures (not such a good thing).
This year, in preparation for the 2014 ACA changes, states are required to select one of four Essential Health Benefits packages. All four packages require that all state mandates be covered in the Essential Benefits Package. In other words, the Legislature has to determine what services will be part of the essential, required package.
Not surprisingly, special interest groups are already bombarding legislators with demands to cover an ever-expanding range of issues. They are particularly motivated because any mandates passed this year will be included in Utah’s essential benefit package under the Affordable Care Act—even if they are repealed by the state next year.
The choices the Legislature makes in determining what is “essential” and what is not, will have long-standing and far-reaching consequences.
Clearly there are elements that are essential—pre-natal care, for example. But for every essential element, there are dozens of not-so-essential ones. For example, mandating coverage of athletic trainers falls more into the category of a “want” rather than a “need.”
While these special interest groups fight for their particular service to be included in the Essential Benefits Package, it is business that is left to pick up the tab.
According to Kaiser, employer purchased health plans cover 61 percent of Utah’s insured population. Employers are already stretched thin by the skyrocketing cost of health care premiums. The average family plan in Utah costs $12,618 per year, of which employers pick up $9,073. With businesses picking up the majority of the cost for more than six in 10 Utahns, these mandates would cripple businesses’ ability to cover even the most essential health benefits and stifle economic growth.
Requiring insurers to cover more “essential” benefits will increase the cost of premiums. Businesses may absorb some of the increase, but ultimately, much of it will be passed onto employees. Many businesses could stop offering health benefits all together.
And just like that, you were hit with what essentially amounts to a tax increase.
The Salt Lake Chamber firmly opposes tax increases—including hidden mandates. As Utah’s largest and longest-standing statewide business association, representing 7,700 businesses and over 500,000 Utah workers—more than half the state’s workforce—the Chamber has been working to help legislators understand the impacts of adding to mandated coverage.
We encourage you to make your voice heard. Contact your State Representative or State Senator today and tell them to vote against unnecessary additions to the Essential Health Benefits package.
CLICK HERE to find your elected officials and to send a message.