Health insurance tax credit likely to affect small part of small-business workforce

By N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 2, 2010; 12:09 AM

About 16.6 million workers are employed by small businesses that are eligible for health insurance tax credits under the new health-care law, according to estimates that were to be released by a nonpartisan research foundation Thursday.

However, the report by the Commonwealth Fund estimated that only 3.4 million of those workers are at firms that would take advantage of the tax credit. For the most part, those are firms that already offer their employees health insurance.

Those firms that do not offer coverage are unlikely to consider the tax breaks enough of a financial incentive to start doing so, according to the report's authors.

Still, the authors stressed the potential stimulus benefits of the tax credits, which apply beginning this taxable year and will increase in value in 2014 from as much as 35 percent of an employer's premium contribution to as much as 50 percent. (The lower the wages and number of workers at a small business, the greater the size of the tax credit it is eligible for.)

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that by 2016, the last year for which the tax credits will be available, they will have reduced health insurance premiums for small business by 8 to 11 percent.

At that point, small businesses and their employees will be able to buy comprehensive insurance on state-based exchanges, which will be established in 2014 and are expected to offer more affordable rates than available in the current market.

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