Washington small businesses got some good news Tuesday.
Senator Patty Murray and the Treasury Department announced they found a solution that will let small businesses get tax credits when buying health plans for their employees. Washington was one of few states that was going to miss out on the federal subsidies until now.
The tax credit announcement is welcome news for business owners like Makini Howell. Since 2011 Howell has been offering health insurance for her full-time employees at Plum Bistro on Seattle’s Capitol Hill.
“Our long term goal is to bring everyone on board,” Howell said. “So it’s a really good thing that we will be getting some help in the form of a tax credit to bring all of our employees on board. That makes it possible.”
Howell said offering health insurance has allowed her to grow her business and hire more people. And in an industry that’s known for high turnover, she’s been able to retain her staff.
Before Tuesday’s announcement, Washington businesses had to buy health plans through the exchange in order to take advantage of the tax credits. The problem was only one carrier, Kaiser Permanente, offers health plans for small businesses. And those plans are available only in Clark and Cowlitz counties. It’s an issue that the state is trying to fix.
In the meantime, small businesses can shop outside the exchange and qualify for tax credits as long as the plans they’re buying meet the requirements under the Affordable Care Act.
Howell said when she started offering health insurance, she noticed a certain calm in her business. “You don’t feel people’s anxiety about not having,” she said. “One of the cooks had to have a root canal. And he had insurance. So it just brings a calm to your business."
And calm is what you need in a business, Howell said, because you can’t grow in chaos.