Like a lot of conservatives, I have plenty of doubts about the president's massive health care overhaul that's going to change the way Americans get health coverage come Jan. 1, 2014. I think the plan is too big, too expensive, too cumbersome, too reliant on subsidies and imposes too may regulations. Although I support some of its goals, I would have surely voted against it were I a member of Congress.
Many on the political left -- including a lot of thoughtful people whose opinions I respect -- like the plan a lot more than I do. But I've just discovered a feature I think even they would agree is utterly futile.
Among the provisions that thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of small businesses are soon going to have to comply with is one that requires filling out a hugely complex form and paying an accountant to review and file it. In the case of the R Street Institute, we will be paying our accountant $53 to file this form. That may not sound like much but, aye, here's the rub:
Our fee came to just $3.
You read that right. We will be spending, when you figure in staff time, at least $100 to comply with a bureaucratic mandate, just so the government can collect a $3 fee. Even our accountant was dumbstruck; you can read his take here.
This so-called "Patient-Centered Outcomes Trust Fund Fee" is imposed on health insurance plans and employer-funded Health Reimbursement Arrangements. R Street offers HRA as an employee benefit, which allows us to reduce our base health insurance premium by opting for a higher deductible plan without disadvantaging employees with higher health care costs. As an employer, we cover the entire premium, and fund the full $1,000 in HRA benefits ourselves.
If the Patient-Centered Outcomes Trust Fund is to exist at all, taxes on health insurers and big health plans might well be a good way to fund it. But a form that costs $100 to fill out so that the government can collect $3 in revenue is simply pointless by any standard. Furthermore, since few people seem to know about the rule (final guidance just came out) one imagines a great many small businesses are probably going to be in breach come July 31st.
There's both a Regulatory Flexibility Act and a Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy specifically intended to prevent the government from imposing requirements this stupid. Right now, they seem to be asleep at the switch.
This has got to change.