Health

Tuesday, Jul 16 2013 05:31 PM

Employers advised to plan now for health care reform

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BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

Health care industry experts offered local business people some simple advice Tuesday as they delve into the intricacies of the health care reform law.

Act now, don't wait.

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You can read up on how other locals are implementing and being impacted by health care reform on The Californian's our special Affordable Care Act web section, http://tinyurl.com/mhujxox.

"(The Affordable Care Act) is the law and people need to comply," said attorney Daniel O. Jamison, a partner at Dowling Aaron Inc.

Two weeks ago the White House postponed penalties that large employers -- those with 50 or more full-time employees -- will face for failing to offer affordable health insurance to full-time workers until 2015.

But, urged Jamison and Troy Burden, an insurance specialist for The Lynn Company, employers must assemble a team of professionals pronto to strategize how their business will meet the law's requirements.

Arming attendees with hefty stacks of paper approaching 100 pages, the men crammed an overview of the Affordable Care Act and the law's impact on employers into two hours at the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce. About half of the roughly 40 to 50 participants indicated that their employer fell into the large employer category.

Full-time employees are those that work 30 hours a week or more, the attorney and insurance specialist explained. Large employers will be required to offer health care coverage to 95 percent of those employees, they said.

They cautioned that if employers try to sidestep the law's requirements, such as by reducing hours or offering benefits that don't meet the law's standards, they may run into other troubles.

"You have to be careful when you reorganize your organization to skirt a law," Burden said.

Employers will likely need to consult an insurance advisor, accountant and attorney to plan for their company's situation, he recommended.

Lori Renee, billing and payroll coordinator for Home Instead Senior Care, came to the presentation to learn how the law will directly affect the business. Her employer has about 43 workers, primarily part-time, but after Tuesday's session, Renee planned to meet with Burden to calculate if the franchise might still need to provide coverage.

"I think that if we grow more as a company that we may need to enlist someone to help us," she said.

Penalties will not apply to employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees, but Burden encouraged small employers approaching that benchmark to seek advice to make sure they do not unsuspectingly fall into the large employer category.

Maria Paine, vice president of human resources for Jim Burke Ford, said she is "thrilled with the delay" in the employer penalties but still concerned about the long-term implications of the law.

Paine worries that Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange that begins enrollment in October, will confuse users. How will a high school drop out or graduate working a minimum wage job navigate the exchange and will benefits be reasonable, she wondered.

Burden said Covered California will be promoted through a barrage of advertisements and application assistors will help people enroll. Employers are also required to notify their workers about the exchange and how to tap into it, Tuesday's presentors noted.

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