The Senate unanimously passed (33-0) its version of House Bill 166, the state’s operating budget for the next two fiscal years yesterday. The House subsequently refused to accept the Senate’s changes, setting up a conference committee that will decide the differences between their two versions of the budget – and ultimately the fate of the business income deduction.
Last night, the Senate Finance Committee made another round of changes to HB 166, prior to reporting the bill and setting the stage for yesterday’s vote. Among these numerous changes were the addition of the main elements of two stand-alone Senate bills, one supported by the Ohio Chamber’s Small Business Council, OSBC, and another supported by the Ohio Chamber.
OSBC-backed SB 9, which had already passed the Senate and is currently pending in the House, is one of the bills now incorporated into HB 166. SB 9 requires health insurers to provide policyholders with monthly claims data upon their request. Having access to this claims data will be beneficial to smaller employers as they evaluate their health insurance options.
While all of SB 1, also pending in the House, didn’t make it into the budget, the portions that did will help bring about additional regulatory relief for businesses. Specifically, the included language prohibits state agencies from adopting a new regulatory restriction unless the agency simultaneously removes two or more other existing regulatory restrictions. Regulatory restrictions are defined as rules that include the words “shall,” “must,” “require,” “shall not,” “may not,” and “prohibit”.
The Senate also incorporated new, permanent high school graduation requirements developed with significant input from Ohio Excels. Ohio Excels is a new, non-partisan coalition of business groups committed to ensuring that all Ohio students have access to excellent early childhood, K-12 and post-secondary education experiences. Ohio Excels is supported by the Ohio Chamber.
The new graduation requirements are designed to ensure that all students must be able demonstrate they are ready to graduate using a method that is aligned to the state’s career- and college-ready expectations, externally verified and consistent throughout the state. These new requirements provide hope that a diploma will be a credible, trustworthy indicator that Ohio’s 12th graders have acquired the knowledge and skills to be successful after high school. The requirements will go into effect beginning with the Class of 2023.
Two changes that could have an impact on the top concern of Ohio business leaders, health care costs, were also added into HB 166 last night. First, the bill now contains Ohio Chamber-sought language prohibiting the charging of facility fees on telemedicine services. Facility fees are add-on charges, billed in addition to the allowable benefit paid by the insurer to the provider as reimbursement for the actual telemedicine service. While telemedicine services are provided at a lower cost compared to in-person services, facility fees can eat away at these savings.
The second health care-related change goes in the opposite direction, however. The Senate Finance Committee adopted language that seeks to put an end to surprise medical billing. While the Ohio Chamber supports a meaningful solution to surprise billing, we are concerned that the approach now included in HB 166 will discourage, rather than encourage, providers and health insurers from trying to arrive at a reasonable rate for out-of-network bill charges. Though this approach protects consumers, without modifications the likely outcome is further increases in the cost of health care – increases that will be borne by employers.
The negotiations between the House and Senate on how to resolve the multitude of differences between their different versions of the budget will begin in earnest next week. Between now and then, we need you to contact your legislators right away and let them know that you want them to support the Senate-passed version of the changes to the business income deduction. Click here to take action.