Colorado lawmakers must protect health coverage for local businesses

June 12, 2020, 11:29 am

Colorado businesses and their workers are struggling from the destruction of COVID-19. For the last few months, small businesses have had to sacrifice and make extremely difficult decisions on everything from paying rent, to meeting payroll, to continuing to provide benefits – most importantly, health coverage.

Tim Hebert

Ensuring access to affordable health coverage must be a top priority for our state as everyone recognizes the need to take care of our health during this pandemic.

Yet, earlier this week, the Colorado State Senate passed a $135 million state health insurance tax on health coverage purchased by Colorado’s small businesses and their employees and families.

Brad Niederman

The Health Insurance Affordability Enterprise, also known as SB 215, is well-intentioned; it aims to make health insurance more affordable for Coloradans who purchase coverage individually. Unfortunately, this bill will make health coverage more expensive for small businesses and individuals – to the tune of as much as $600 for the typical family health plan.

Every day, we work with Colorado small businesses and individuals to help them find the best and most affordable health coverage for themselves and their employees. More than anything, we see Colorado businesses trying to do right by their employees to help them take care of their health.

That’s exactly why Colorado lawmakers should not impose a new state tax on the health insurance purchased by local businesses and their employees, as SB 215 proposes to do.

Any time we increase the cost of coverage for Colorado employers we see the ripple effects in the rest of our economy. Increased health care costs for our state’s businesses mean employers have to make-up those costs elsewhere. Coloradans who were furloughed or laid off when COVID-19 first hit may wait longer to return to work. Employers will find it harder to continue offering health care benefits, meaning their employees and their families could see disruptions in coverage. And our economy will be slower to fully re-open and recover.

This will have real consequences on the local small business coordinators in every town and city in our state. Now is the time to be helping our local restaurants, salons, grocery stores, hardware stores, flowers shops, and more.

From Denver to Durango, and all across our state, the fact is that small businesses are what make our communities vibrant, colorful, and unique, on top of driving tens of thousands of jobs and local revenue and economic activity.

We urge Colorado’s representatives in the General Assembly to slow down and hit the pause button on SB 215. Now is not the time to increase costs for local small businesses, their employees, and their families. We can, and must, do better.

Tim Hebert & Brad Niederman are Legislative Co-Chairs for the Colorado State Association of Health Underwriters (CSAHU)

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