Small businesses would get some help to provide health insurance for their employees under a bill now awaiting Senate debate.
Insurance affordability is tackled on a number of fronts in HCS HB 818 . It would bring the state into compliance with federal regulations, qualifying Missouri for federal grants. Tax breaks would be given businesses that provide employees health insurance or set-aside money for employees to buy individual plans.
Rep. Judy Baker (D-Columbia) remains skeptical it will do much good. Baker says it appears to be a band-aid over the gaping wound of uninsured Missourians. She has suggested that the state would be better off expanding Medicaid coverage.
But Brad Jones, the Missouri Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, says it’s more than a band-aid. Jones says many Missouri businesses are dropping health coverage, due to costs, especially businesses with fewer than ten employees. Jones says the tax breaks will help businesses keep providing health care benefits and might provide enough financial incentives for others to begin providing the benefits. Jones sees flexibility in setting aside funds so individuals with varying needs can purchase the health care the fits them. The bill requires that that money be used for health insurance. The bill also tightens regulations used to deny health care coverage.