The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Business

October 19, 2013

Business owners struggle to understand health care mandate

Most frequently asked question: Who has to comply?

Making an informed health insurance choice has not been easy for local business leaders who say they have more questions than answers when it comes to interpreting the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Nearly all of our companies have questions or concerns about the Affordable Care Act,” said Chuck Staley, president and CEO of Anderson’s Flagship Enterprise Center. “The unknown is a concern. Particularly for those that are small and trying to grow.”

If a business has the equivalent of 50 or more full-time employees and the company does not offer insurance to employees they may be required to make an “Employer Shared Responsibility Payment” in 2015, according to the federal government website, www.healthcare.gov.

In Anderson, Troy Landrum, owner of Landrum’s SG Inc., currently has 48 employees at his cleaning service. He is not sure he wants to surpass that number because of the mandates required by government.

“All small businesses will feel the impact,” Landrum said of the ACA. “Most small businesses lack the resources to fully understand the implications of the law. Do I really want to grow my company beyond that threshold? What does it mean if I do? Is it worth it?”

Mike Montgomery, partner and principal architect for krM Architecture, 1020 Jackson St., said his company is starting to have serious discussions about its health care coverage and the company’s options.

“We know we need to do it, but only a third of our employees have our insurance,” he said. “The other two-thirds get it from other places.”

Montgomery’s firm employs 17 people.

“One of the down sides to this whole change is I don’t know if I have a new good thing or a bad new thing,” he said. “But anything that is a distraction from our business is not good.

“I don’t even know where to start and how much time am I going to have to invest to make good decisions with this. That is the part that is daunting.”

Montgomery said he relies heavily on Rick Cooper, president and co-owner of Comprehensive Financial Services in Muncie, to provide answers on the ACA. Cooper is certified to help people enroll in the government's health insurance Marketplace (www.healthcare.gov) and sells group insurance policies to companies.

“I am not an expert,” Cooper said. “No one is right now.”

Cooper said the No. 1 question companies want answered is if they are required to offer medical insurance.

According to www.healthcare.gov, “No employer has to offer coverage.”

Cooper translated the answer given by the site which appears to be a contradiction to everything people have learned about the ACA.

“What that means is if you have a group of over 50 employees, you don’t have to provide it, but if you don’t you will have to pay something,” he said. “Call it a tax or a fine, you will have to pay.”

Cooper, who has been selling insurance since 1975, said it is difficult for him to give companies a good recommendation because there is so much misinformation out there.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “This is a train wreck. I’ve never seen anything as confusing as the whole Affordable Care Act.”

Dennis Ashley, Madison County Chamber of Commerce business development director, is organizing events to help businesses understand ACA requirements and what is needed to be compliant with the law.

“We understand the business community needs assistance and someone to come along to help them find answers and solutions to their questions and we want to put those players in front of that audience,” he said. “We are more than willing to help solve this awareness problem.”

A date for informational sessions has not yet been set, Ashley said.

The government has failed to communicate effectively with people on this issue, Cooper said. As a result businesses are turning to various sources for information -- and the answers are conflicting.

“The resolution is that this is not working and they need to start over,” Cooper said.

Until the kinks in the flow of information from the government mandates for the local businesses are worked out, Staley said some businesses have decided to proceed with caution until they have all the answers.

“Some are afraid to expand because they have reached the threshold of 50 employees and some are saying they would limit growth to prevent those thresholds,” Staley said.

Like Traci L. Moyer on Facebook and follow her @moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

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