We celebrate small business growth in Richland County. As a county, we can fondly look back on generations of small mom and pop shops becoming major engines of commerce here. We are inspired by the entrepreneur working in his garage who started with an idea and turned it into a legendary business. Richland County residents are known for their fortitude and creativity. Unfortunately, our national government doesn’t always do everything it can to encourage small business. Too often company owners are faced with burdensome taxes and regulations that impede their ability to develop productively. Coming in January, there will be another massive tax for small businesses in Richland County and the nation called the Health Insurance Tax (HIT).

The Health Insurance Tax is one of the largest tax increases in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the President’s health care law passed in 2010. The HIT will be levied on health insurance companies who operate in the fully insured marketplace. As 88 percent of such businesses purchase in that arena, the costs will be directly passed on in the form of higher premiums. For Richland County residents, the HIT alone could mean a nearly $500 a year increase in costs per family, according to former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

Beyond my role as a state legislator, I am also a small-business owner. I understand the implications of the HIT and what it will mean in 2014 and beyond. With the countdown to implementation less than six months away, I am making preparations for the tax. One thing is patently obvious as I do so – the HIT is an onerous tax, which is going to force me, as well as most of the small businesses in Richland County, to have to make some tough choices.

The Obama Administration has said that the ACA is going to lower health care costs, but for small-business owners, this is simply untrue. In fact, the President claimed that the ACA would lower the average family’s premiums by $2,500. Unfortunately, according to a 2012 Kaiser Health 2012 Annual Survey, the average family’s premiums have increased by $3,065 since the passage of the ACA three years ago and are only likely to keep rising as the HIT is implemented.

Small businesses in Richland County need certainty in their decision-making process, without being weighed down by needless regulation. The HIT is not the only tax hidden in the ACA, but it is perhaps the most costly. Fortunately, we are seeing modest signs that the Obama Administration may be listening to the concerns of the business community. Recently it was encouraging to learn that the employer mandate forbusinesses with over 50 workers to purchase insurance is being delayed until the beginning of 2015.

Now small businesses are asking, “what about us?” And rightly so. This change does not relieve the burden of increased healthcare costs on small business. Only by repealing the Health Insurance Tax will the president succeed in protecting small businesses. We must let our elected officials in Washington know that repealing the HIT is a necessary step toward rebuilding our fragile economy and allowing small-business owners to create much-needed American jobs.

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