Obama signs Cures Act, expanding small business healthcare options
- Small businesses may use health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) to fund individual health plans that employees purchase on the open market, SHRM reports. President Barack Obama signed into law yesterday 21st Century Cures Act, which passed Congress on Dec. 7.
- Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees that don’t offer a group health plan may use HRA funds to pay for certain out-of-pocket medical costs, in addition to employee premiums on health plans purchased via public health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.
- The bipartisan measure was proposed to hasten drug approvals and increase the availability of innovative health treatments, said SHRM. But lawmakers added provisions to address health-plan issues, such as the HRA funding allowance. The law also makes sure mental health benefits are equal to those covering physical health.
The 21st Century Cures Act gives small businesses a boost; many smaller employers struggle to offer group health plans to employees. The law allows small employers to be players in the healthcare system, instead of watching from the sidelines while larger businesses build generous benefits packages to attract and retain talent.
Lawmakers recognized the importance of treating mental health, and easing the stigma that surrounds treatment options, by putting a parity provision in the bill. Mental disorders and behavioral health often go unnoticed in the workplace, and therefore untreated.