Get Started: Health care hearing; online seminars

NEW YORK (AP) — HEALTH CARE TAX

Witnesses at a House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology hearing gave conflicting views of how a tax on health insurers would affect small businesses. One witness warned that it could lead to job losses, while another predicted it would have no impact on what small businesses pay for health insurance.

Analysts at the Congressional Budget Office and some private groups have predicted that the tax, which will be implemented in 2014, will be passed on to consumers and businesses in the form of higher premiums. The tax is required under the health care overhaul.

The National Federation of Independent Business, which argued unsuccessfully against the health care law before the Supreme Court last year, told the committee that many small businesses wouldn't be able to afford higher premiums. The tax could lead to a loss of 146,000 to 262,000 jobs in the private sector in 2022, said William Dennis, a senior research fellow at NFIB. Fifty-nine percent of those lost jobs would be at small businesses, he said.

Dean Norton, owner of a dairy farm in New York, said that because of premium increases that have already taken effect, he has had to reduce his contribution toward the cost of workers' health insurance, and is now covering only half his workers.

An opposing view came from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank. There are many provisions in the health care law that will slow the increase of premiums, including the creation of exchanges where businesses and consumers can purchase insurance, said Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the center. The fact that individuals will be required to buy insurance, and adding to the pool of insured people, will also help bring premiums down, Van de Water said.

Still, the possibility that the tax would send premiums higher has small business owners worried, testified Ryan Thorn, who owns a health insurance agency outside Salt Lake City. Thorn quoted several of his clients as saying they might have to cut back on providing coverage or might not be able to hire because of the expected higher costs.

CAPITOL HILL CALENDAR

Congressional committee hearings this week will focus on immigration and patent reform, and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

The Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship holds a hearing Thursday morning about E-Verify, the online system designed to help employers confirm that job applicants and employees are authorized to work in the U.S. E-Verify currently is mostly voluntary, but under the immigration reform proposal in the Senate, it would become mandatory for all employers. Some small business advocates are seeking an exemption for small companies.

The House Small Business Committee holds a hearing on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET on patent reform and the challenges it poses for small businesses. The hearing will look at the American Invents Act that became law in September 2011, and how it affects small businesses' ability to obtain patents.

The House Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade holds a hearing Thursday at 10 a.m. ET on the potential economic benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline is proposed to run from Canada through the Midwest to oil refineries in Texas. President Barack Obama must approve the pipeline for the project to proceed.

You can learn more about both hearings at: http://smallbusiness.house.gov/calendar

ONLINE SEMINARS

The Small Business Administration and the nonprofit SCORE are holding online seminars about resources for women- and minority-owned businesses and on finding the balance between running a company and having a personal life.

The SBA seminar on "Resources for Underserved Firms" will be hosted from the agency's National Small Business Innovation Transfer conference in Washington, D.C. The seminar will allow business owners to take part in a panel discussion that includes investors and mentoring organizations. It will be held Thursday from 10:15 a.m. to 12 p.m. Eastern time. You can sign up at http://emsp.intellor.com/login/412572

SCORE's seminar "Six Tips to Help you Juggle the Stresses of a Busy Life" will be held on Thursday, May 23, at 1 p.m. Eastern time. You can sign up at http://bit.ly/16uZn6E

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Follow Joyce Rosenberg at https://twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg

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