Small Business Health Care Act

Two bills that have the potential to affect North Carolina businesses have survived “crossover” this legislative session.

Small Business Healthcare Bill: Senate Bill 68

Senate Bill 68 aims to expand access to affordable health insurance for small business employees and their employers.
Senator Joyce Krawiec, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, estimates that 110,000 North Carolina business employees could gain access to health insurance as a result of the bill. It intends to allow more small businesses to pool their employees together with other small businesses to offer insurance through Association Health Plans (AHPs). With a larger pool of enrollees, they may be able to negotiate for the lower insurance premiums commonly offered to larger businesses.

The bill was drafted in response to new federal Department of Labor regulations that ease regulation of AHPs. Under the law, it would make it easier for small businesses to meet the requirements to form these associations.

Among the bill’s provisions:

  • Allow businesses in the same industry or region to group their employees in the same insurance pool to offer insurance through Association Health Plans

  • Extend insurance coverage to employees, employers, and self-employed workers

  • Allow more small employers to purchase stop-loss insurance to limit liability if health care costs exceed deductibles

  • Ensure that insurance is offered to all members of the association without regard to “health-status related factors.”

  • Require AHPs to meet several requirements including that,

    • Associations must be nonprofits in existence for at least two years and have another purpose beyond offering health insurance.

If it passes, the law would take effect on October 1, 2019.

House Bill 363 and Senate Bill 246, both called The Craft Beer Distribution & Modernization Act, aim to support the rise of “small and mid-sized independent breweries” and help them to continue their economic contribution to North Carolina. The bills’ sponsors want “to allow brewers of all sizes to fairly compete in the marketplace and to access retailers of all sizes.”

Under current law, breweries that produce more than 25,000 barrels per year must sign with a distribution wholesaler. Under the new law, breweries would be able to self-distribute up to 50,000 barrels per year. The law would apply to breweries selling no more than 100,000 barrels in a year with any barrels above 50,000 required to be distributed through a wholesaler.

The bill carves exceptions into the three-tier system controlling the malt beverage industry. This system separates producers, wholesalers, and retailers to prevent monopolies. Lawmakers believe altering the system is vital to encourage more growth in the craft beer industry, so the state can benefit from increased employment and tax revenue.

If it passes, the law would become effective on the date of passage.