Is the Small Business Administration Going to Help Small Businesses Get Out from Under Obamacare?

WASHINGTON – Sen. James Risch is prevailing on the Small Business Administration to assist companies in dodging the requirements posed by the Affordable Care Act.

Speaking at a hearing Wednesday on the SBA’s 2014 budget proposal during a meeting of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, the Idaho Republican asked if the SBA had “created something within the agency to help small businesses get out from under this -- to get around it as big businesses and medium businesses are doing.”

“Small businesses all over the country are trying to find a way to get out from under all this just as all big business and medium size businesses are,” Risch said. “The difference, of course, is big and medium sized businesses have a gaggle of lawyers and accountants and people who can help them -- human resource officers who can help them get out from under this.”

Small business owners have fewer options, he said, unless they have fewer than 50 employees or see that they work fewer than 30 hours per week.

“And I hear from businesses all the time who are doing just that,” Risch said.

Addressing Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills, Risch asked if the agency offers any advice on ways to circumvent the law.

“The thing I get from businesses all the time is, ‘you’ve got to help me on this Obamacare,’” he said.

Mills, who has announced her intention to step down as administrator, said her agency constantly counsels small businesses that are required to comply with the new healthcare law slated to go into effect in 2014.

“Access to affordable healthcare is the No. 1 concern, as you know, of small businesses all over the country and their major concern is they pay 18 percent more than big companies just because they’re small,” Mills said.

More than 96 percent of all small businesses will be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s provision requiring companies to provide health insurance for their employees, Mills said. Regardless, companies that want to provide such a benefit for their employees at an affordable cost should be able to do so “because there are going to be insurance companies bidding on their business in an open and competitive environment.”

“Right now, if you are a small business and you want to provide healthcare, you can barely get a quote,” she said. “Now, if you have an affordable health care marketplace which will exist in every state by next fall, there will be enrollment and by next January small businesses will have the opportunity -- not the requirement but the opportunity -- to participate and buy healthcare on those exchanges.”

The response did little to appease Risch, who argued that rather than affordable healthcare the top priority among businesses “is staying in business.” Many are facing difficulties doing so “because they can’t compete when the government tells them they’ve got to spend money on something they don’t want to spend money on or they want to spend money the way they want to spend it not the way Washington, D.C., and the people who work here tell them they have to do business.”

Gesturing behind him toward a stack of documents about seven feet high – a “red tape tape” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been using to represent the regulations to implement the Affordable Care Act – Risch said businesses “are trying to get out from under this.”