NFIB Joins Frivolous Health Care Lawsuit, Undermines Interests Of Its Members

NFIB President Dan Danner

NFIB President Dan Danner

On Monday, administration officials eager to build support for the new health care law held a conference call outlining how small businesses can apply for the new tax credits. The Internal Revenue Service also “issued a series of rules clarifying eligibility for the credit, which is available to businesses with fewer than 25 employees and paying an average salary of less than $50,000 a year. The value of the credit phases out as the number of workers and their salaries rise, with the full 35 percent credit available only to businesses with fewer than 10 full-time workers paying an average salary of less than $25,000.” From the guidance:

In particular, an employer that receives such a state tax credit or subsidy will also receive the full federal credit based on its entire contribution so long as the federal credit does not exceed the employer’s net contribution…. The guidance clarifies that small businesses can receive the credit not only for traditional health insurance coverage but also for add-on dental, vision, and other limited-scope coverage. The employer must meet the requirements for limited-scope coverage that are similar to those that apply for single coverage: the employer must offer to pay at least 50% of the premium…. The new guidance allows employers to choose among 3 different methods of determining hours to minimize their bookkeeping duties while receiving the maximum tax credit for which they are eligible. Employers can look at actual hours of service, or can use simple rules of convenience to estimate hours based on total days or weeks of service.

Despite the benefits, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), the nation’s largest small business lobby, announced last week that it is joining a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of health care reform:

NFIB joined this lawsuit to further its mission to protect the rights of small business owners to own, operate, and grow their business…The federal government has really simply gone too far with this law. The individual and employer mandates in the law, the onslaught of new taxes, the paper requirements and the new rules are dramatically going to increase the cost of doing business…Small businesses deserve better than the health care law that was rushed through the legislative process, ignores the constitution, and ultimately will destroy jobs and could force some small business owners to close their doors.

If the rhetoric sounds like recycled GOP soundbite, that’s because it is. In fact, the federation and its leaders have long-standing ties with Republican party, leading the Washington Post and the Washington Times to describe the group as “a bastion of Republicanism.” According to CQ MoneyLine, “Since 1980, the NFIB has donated $9,004,517 in campaign contributions, 91.6% of which went to Republican candidates” and many leaders have ties tot he Republican party.

The group my have legitimate problems with the law, despite its conservative leanings, but joining a frivolous lawsuit certainly won’t help address their concerns. For one, the rhetoric is completely overblown. The group has to know that the law does not include an employer mandate — only a free rider requirement for large employers — or taxes that would “force some small businesses owners to close their doors.” Aside from the tax credits, the law provides a whole host of benefits: businesses will be able to pool risk through SHOP exchanges (a long time NFIB goal), receive grants for wellness programs, and expect insurers to spend 85% of their premium dollars on claims.

Sure more can be done to improve the bill, but by aligning itself with the Congressional Republican election efforts rather than try and shape the law through the regulatory process, the federation betrays itself as a purely political operation. Had it chosen quiet advocacy, the group could have actually addressed some of its concerns about increased paperwork and the like. By supporting the lawsuits, they’re undermining the success of their future lobbying efforts and invalidating the legitimacy of the federation. In fact, some business groups are already distancing themselves from NFIB’s theatrics.