OPINION: Colorado cannot afford the 2018 Health Insurance Tax

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The healthcare fight in Washington D.C. continues as a prolonged saga with little clarity as to when progress will be made. Meanwhile, Coloradans are facing the realities of rapidly rising health care costs with little relief in sight. At the end of the month, however, our representatives in Congress do have the option to make progress on lowering health care costs by voting to delay the Health Insurance Tax for 2018.

The Health Insurance Tax (HIT) is a brutal tax on health care that continues to cripple small and independent businesses throughout our state. While we often hear about rising premiums and unaffordable costs of healthcare for many, the HIT is an additional and specific tax on the health care plans that small business owners purchase for their employees. It’s estimated the HIT will cost businesses $500 in taxes per employee per year. A burden of this size will crush Colorado’s small businesses.

At the Colorado Business Roundtable, we prioritize creating an environment in our state for businesses to thrive and grow. The HIT works against these values and goals. Rather than adding jobs or updating equipment, businesses will have to budget for this per employee tax. Once we hinder growth for local businesses, the state suffers. Colorado businesses should pride themselves on high wages and top-of-the-line healthcare for employees. Delaying the HIT puts these aspirations in reach.

The unfortunate truth of the HIT is that the small guy is always hit the hardest. It’s Colorado’s family-owned, local enterprises — often the lifeblood of our communities — that cannot prosper under this tax. It’s important for us to fight for their success, which will no doubt bring prosperity to Colorado.

Our state was lucky when Aurora Rep. Mike Coffman, along with a strong bipartisan majority in Congress, voted to delay the HIT for 2017. The ramifications can be seen as our economy booms. Colorado is a top destination and a top place to live. This was made possible by representatives like Congressman Coffman, who have always prioritized pro-business and pro-growth legislation. By supporting the delay of the HIT for this current year, he relieved businesses that suffered under its weight from 2014 to 2016. We need him to stand with us again to vote to delay this tax.

As Congress returns to session and begins to navigate funding the budget, delaying the HIT is non-negotiable if we want our economy to thrive. The Colorado Business Roundtable hopes we can count on Congressman Coffman to vote for this delay and encourage his colleagues to do the same. Colorado cannot afford the Health Insurance Tax for 2018.

Jeff Wasden is president and CEO of Colorado Business Roundtable, a Denver-based nonprofit advocating for pro-business legislation.