Growing up on a farm in northwest Iowa, I remember my parents searching for affordable health insurance for our family. Often they could only find plans that covered too little and still cost too much, leaving our family to pay high premiums while still paying most medical bills out of pocket.
For Iowa's small business owners and family farmers, relief from this system of unaffordable and unpredictable health care is on the way.
Already, a new high-risk pool is accepting applications in Iowa, and all new insurance plans are required to cover prevention at no cost to the individual. The new law also ends practices of lifetime limits. If you get cancer or another expensive illness, your insurance company can no longer drop your coverage when you reach some arbitrary cap of benefits.
The practice of rescission, under which insurers could retroactively end your coverage for a trivial reason to avoid paying claims, is now banned. For small business owners and family farmers who work hard to earn a living, the idea of an insurance company retroactively canceling a paid for policy violates a basic sense of right and wrong.
Perhaps the most significant immediate benefit to small business in Iowa will be the tax credits starting this year. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees and a median wage of less than $50,000 are eligible. For the smallest businesses with the lowest average wage, the credit is worth up to 30% of the business's share of premium costs. That will rise to 50% in 2014. Small employers can claim the credit for 2010 through 2013 and for any two years after that.
When state insurance exchanges go into effect in 2014, individual farmers, small business owners and their employees will be able to pool together into larger groups, purchasing comprehensive and continuous coverage through the new exchanges.
Individuals and families buying their own health insurance will also be eligible for affordability credits starting in 2014 if their incomes are less than 400% of the federal poverty line.
To prepare the provider system in rural areas for more patients as people become newly insured, the legislation makes major new investments in strengthening the primary care workforce and provides incentives for new physicians to practice in small towns.
Simply put, for the self-employed and small businesses, health reform is all gain and no pain.
Only businesses with more than 50 employees face new requirements to provide coverage, and the law is paid for by an increase in payroll taxes on high-income earners. Only the richest 2.5% will pay that tax. Gains in efficiency help trim additional funds from Medicare, which are reinvested in helping everyone get covered.
The new health care law also strengthens our fiscal situation, reducing the federal budget deficit over both a 10 and 20 year time frame.
So, don't be fooled by the flurry of misinformation about the new law. Special interest groups who opposed health reform when it was debated are responsible for these false claims.
They cannot change the fact that the new law puts into place reforms that will finally make insurance companies more accountable, guarantee all of us more choices, and secure and enhance the quality of care for all Americans.
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