Health Care Subsidy Extension a Relief for WI Small Businesses / Public News Service

Average Affordable Care Act premiums in Wisconsin would have been 56% higher this year without temporary subsidies from the federal government, and small-business advocates say a new extension is a big help when smaller firms are trying to get back on their financial feet.

The Inflation Reduction Act included a provision to extend the ACA’s premium subsidies through 2025. The extra tax credits are from an earlier pandemic relief package and were set to run though this year.

David Chase, vice president for outreach at the Small Business Majority, said the extension removes a lot of headaches during a complicated time for owners of smaller operations.

“Only about half of small businesses are able to offer coverage,” he said, “and we’ve seen that number drop even more since the pandemic, which makes the Inflation Reduction Act even more important.”

Since its inception, Chase said, the Affordable Care Act has been a game-changer for small businesses but acknowledges owners still face challenges. He said health-care costs continue to rise, with one recent analysis noting marketplace insurers already were proposing premium hikes for 2023. Policy experts have said the subsidy extension will help buffer those higher expenses.

Shawn Phetteplace, the Wisconsin-based Midwest regional manager of the Main Street Alliance, said the extension is especially helpful here, because Wisconsin is still among the 12 states that have yet to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. He said that adds barriers for small business owners trying to build a staff these days.

“A lot of folks go and do jobs – that they’re working for large corporations purely to get health insurance,” he said. “You have folks who don’t start a business because they need health insurance. You have folks that only are part-time with their business because they need health insurance.”

The Inflation Reduction Act also will allow Medicare to negotiate some drug prices. Analysts have said that also could help small business owners in the future, because skyrocketing prices have made it harder to select a plan to offer to their staff.

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