As an astute reader of “Cup,” you’ve probably already determined that this article will discuss issues originating in Fantasyland on the Potomac – and you are correct. Our legislators and regulators are hard at work creating more “stuff” which affects our industry. So, let’s get the bad news out of the way – and it comes from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
For the past several years, various bodies have been litigating or threatening to litigate against the EPA because they feel that the threshold for low-level ozone is not low enough. Many wanted to lower the threshold below 60 parts per billion because if lowering it to 70 was safe – 60 would be better. Regardless that there were no hard facts to back up the supposition. Now for the good news – the threshold is going to be 70. Now the bad news – it’s 70.
What does it mean for our industry? The Dallas/Fort Worth area is already struggling to meet the previous threshold (75 ppb) and there are possibilities that San Antonio, Austin, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Kansas City will be affected, but it’s too early to tell. Each state has to create models and then create regulations (based on theory) that will reduce the VOCs to the established level. This can take up to two years. More than likely, the result will be more monitoring, lower VOC solvents, and other measures which will have an indirect affect to many. Oh, and vehicular traffic, which is not regulated by the Clean Air Act and one of the major generators of low-level ozone, will not be affected by these new requirements.
Now for some more good news – the Senate on October 1passed, by voice vote, the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act (PACE) (HR 1624). What does that mean in English? Currently under the ACA, the definition of the state-based small group markets is scheduled to change in 2016 from 50 to include employers with up to 100 employees. The PACE Act would keep the one to 50 definition in place, but states would have the option of expanding the definition of small employer to cover employers with up to 100 employees. Employer’s over 50 still have to offer health insurance, but can participate in the small group exchanges (Small Business Health Options – SHOP). Well, if that was the good news, we need to address the “other” news.
Per information shared by Printing Industries of America’s Jim Kyger, “According to a recent report, if the small group definition moves to 100, premiums could increase by approximately 18 percent for a majority of the mid-sized employers. As a result, many employers may choose to self-insure instead of remain in the small group market because those employers will no longer be subject to the various requirements of the small group market. This could further increase the premiums for those left in the newly expanded risk pool.”
Although I never believed the Affordable Health Care Act would be affordable, I’m concerned that much of the law that was not transparent (thank you Ms. Pelosi) is rapidly changing the behavior of employers, medical professionals, individuals, and the insurance carriers. The result? Unaffordable health care, and many of the millions that the law was supposed to help still don’t have insurance coverage.
So, let’s close on some ________ (fill in the blank) news. We elect a new President and Congress in approximately 13 months.