By Erin Anthony, AFBF

Three years ago this month President Barack Obama signed into law a sweeping overhaul of our nation’s health care system. More than 1,000 days later, farmers, ranchers and other families and small business owners are still waiting for the “care” and “affordability” that the name of the law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, implies.

Instead, over the weeks and months since ACA became law, we’ve been watching the costs and complexities pile up on an already expensive and confusing system. The higher taxes and thousands of pages of new regulations that come with ACA are certainly not what the doctor ordered for a recovering Main Street economy.

Both the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation—noted and nonpartisan budget and tax authorities—have said that ACA will levy more than $1 trillion dollars in taxes, barely a dime of which families and small employers can afford. Half of the 21 new taxes will hit families and business owners making less than $250,000 per year ($200,000 for individual filers). This flies in the face of the president’s promise to not increase taxes on low- and middle-income earners. It’s also hurtful to the nation’s job creators, most of whom file as individuals.

One of these taxes, called a “fee” in the law but known as the Health Insurance Tax to the rest of us, is a particular threat. The Joint Committee on Taxation says “a very large portion of the insurance industry fee [will] be passed forward to purchasers of insurance in the form of higher premiums.” This tax, slated to raise more $100 billion at the expense of families and small businesses, is expected to drive up the average American family’s health care premiums by approximately $500 per year, according to Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former CBO director.

Farmers and ranchers are particularly worried about a mandate requiring businesses to provide health insurance coverage to their employees if they have 50 or more “full-time equivalent” employees on the payroll. If they don’t provide minimum insurance coverage and if certain employees receive a tax credit and purchase insurance through the exchanges, these small business owners face hefty monetary penalties.

The amount of paperwork alone required by the new law would make the most robust of us queasy. The administration’s own documents estimate that ACA’s new tax rules will add more than 40 million hours of paperwork per year to individuals and businesses. With new regulations on the way, those numbers are only going up.

Three years, a Supreme Court ruling and many congressional tussles later, ACA appears to be here to stay. Farmers and ranchers may have accepted that, but they’re not resigned to swallowing this bad economic medicine.

Families and small businesses are hoping that by addressing some of the most problematic aspects of ACA, the economic prognosis for the whole country will improve. That’s why they’re calling for Congress to get rid of the HIT and eliminate the employer mandate. There’s also plenty to be done to help farmers, ranchers and many others get out from under the pile of regulations the law will bury them under.


Erin Anthony, with the American Farm Bureau Federation, is the editor of FBNews.