Reece Ziomek is a single mom. She says affording health insurance has been a struggle despite having a full-time job.
“I have their health insurance with NJ FamilyCare, but I make too much money to qualify for myself, so I went on Obamacare, but that’s, like I said, $300 a month, which is just too much,” said Ziomek.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer hosted a roundtable discussion because he says it’s just going to get worse.
“I see two trains coming at us at the same time,” said Gottheimer.
The first train he’s talking about is the Health Insurance Tax, which is part of the Affordable Care Act. The management consulting firm Oliver Wyman predicts premiums will rise 2.7 percent in 2018 alone if the tax isn’t delayed. That translates to a cost increase of $523 per family covered by a small business health plan, $165 per person in the individual market and $255 per Medicare Advantage senior.
“It’s getting to the point where we can’t afford to do this anymore,” said a member of the roundtable discussion.
Last year, the health insurance tax was pushed off, but Gottheimer says they’re having trouble stopping it again and that’s why he’s pushing for meetings like this one.
“Hopefully with the right bipartisan group effort in Washington it’ll happen, but as it stands now it’s going to effect everybody down the line,” said another small business owner.
The other train the congressman sees coming our way is the federal tax reform bill. Those in support, like Speaker Paul Ryan, say it will cut taxes for people across the country.
“There are people in Washington who want to keep things exactly as they are — broken, unfair and staked against middle income families and those striving to get there. But that’s just background noise,” said Ryan.
But the congressman from New Jersey says this is just going to be a tax hike for people here and in other states in the Northeast.
“When you pay your federal taxes, you’re able to deduct right now your state taxes first and your property taxes. They’re trying to eliminate that deduction so you’re actually going to get taxed twice,” said Gottheimer.
One small business owner told the room, with more hikes it’ll mean he can’t give raises to employees, can’t hire people, and when they can they need to negotiate over health care costs, things that make them less competitive. They’re tough decisions, he says, when your goal is to always put employees first.
“When costs are going up a lot faster than their raises are, you know it always becomes a challenge for us to figure out how do we continue to pay our employees and also provide them with great benefits,” said Paul Miller, the owner of Vision Retirement.
If the business takes a hit then it trickles down to employees, like Ziomek.
“Last year, he said I could either give you a raise or I could give you health insurance, so I took the raise because I’m trying to, you know, better myself and for my family just try to make more money,” she said.
It’s money that’s already lead to facing some tough choices.