Local businesses work to grasp health care’s impact

As the Affordable Care Act moves closer to becoming a reality, local business leaders learned how it could impact them at this week’s meeting of the SouthPark chapter of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.

David Romero, account executive at Marsh & McLennan Agency, broke down what businesses could expect with the health care reform program in a presentation that both raised and answered a lot of questions.

Because the rules are different for employers who have less than 50 employees and for part-time and full-time workers, some of the biggest confusion at the meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, stemmed from what employers should do when the act begins.

“If you work 30 or more hours, you will be eligible for employee benefits,” Romero explained, saying all employers must make information available to their employees about the act so they can decide whether they want to try their luck with the North Carolina Federal Marketplace or with their employer.

Despite the confusion surrounding the act, Romero believes costs associated with health care will increase. One way employers will see costs rise is by the “Pay or Play” mandate, Romero said.

The mandate states, “ … all employers with 50 or more equivalent full-time employees must decide whether to continue offering benefits or opt to pay a penalty for failing to provide coverage.”

If an employer chooses to not offer coverage, they will face a penalty of $2,000 for every full-time employee excluding the first 30.

Deciding to offer coverage might not keep the penalty at bay, either. If an employer offers benefits but, “… the coverage is considered either insufficient or unaffordable, they are subject to a penalty of $3,000 per affected full-time employee who receives a tax credit,” the mandate states.

According to Romero, responding to a chamber member, the penalty money goes to the government to fund the subsidy portion of the act.

“The Affordable Care Act is not affordable,” Romero said. “The cost of providing care is not addressed seriously, consumerism is not addressed seriously, tort reform is not addressed, anti-competitiveness in both Providers and Insure Markets is not addressed and real quality outcome measures are not seriously considered.”

Romero said 78 percent of health care costs are lifestyle driven and the Affordable Care Act doesn’t address those types of issues. Clients could, however, give incentives to those who do certain things to change their lifestyle, such as going to a health coach or quitting smoking.

Romero told business leaders he does not think costs will decrease as more and more people are insured because there will be some people in the community without coverage still being treated at hospitals.

“Healthcare costs are not going to change,” he said.

Paula Harvey, chief executive officer of K&P Consulting, disagrees with Romero and thinks health care costs will decrease once the system is stabilized and more people have coverage. The program will make the country healthier overall, she said, because people will be able to go to the doctor immediately instead of waiting and letting the problem worsen.

“I really think people need to be covered,” she said.

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