Time is running out for Congress to pass important legislation that is essential to the continued success of small businesses in Maine, which are the heart of our economy. Before the end of this year, lawmakers need to pass H.R. 1398 and S. 172, the Health Insurance Tax Relief Act of 2019.

This tax, also known as the “HIT,” was one of the most expensive provisions in the Affordable Care Act. It increased every year it was in place; but fortunately, Congress provided relief from the tax twice before in a bipartisan fashion. If it takes effect in 2020, it is estimated it will cost $260 billion over the next decade and result in the loss of up to 286,000 jobs.

Although the tax is assessed on insurers, it will ultimately be paid by the 88 percent of small-business owners and their workers who are covered through the ACA Marketplace. In fact, half of the total tax burden will fall upon households with annual incomes between $10,000 and $50,000.

This is unacceptable. As a business owner myself, I know how important it is to provide competitive wages and access to benefits, including health coverage, to my dedicated employees. The HIT will force me to make cuts in one of those areas or raise prices on my customers.

Reinstating the HIT will have dire consequences for Maine. I call on our representatives in Washington to make delaying the HIT their top priority in the remaining legislative calendar.

Gary Hilliard