10 Surprising Things About the Health Care Law
Two years after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, and a month after the U.S. Supreme Court signed off on it, the health care law is still a mystery to a lot of Americans. And although small-business owners profess to feeling strongly about it, few can spell out what the law means for them, specifically.
Here are 10 details that still might surprise you about it:
1. It might not affect your business.
OK, we'll start with one you might know--but if you don't, it'll be the most important.
If your business doesn't have at least 50 employees, you're exempted from the key provision that says businesses have to provide insurance for their employees.
2. It already has health benefits for women.
On August 1, the law provided that eight preventative health benefits aimed for women went into effect. From now on, new health insurance plans have to provide free contraceptives, breast-feeding supplies, routine breast and pelvic exams, Pap tests, prenatal care, tests for sexually transmitted disease, and counseling for victims of domestic violence.
3. It requires workplaces to be breast-feeding friendly.
Affected businesses--again, those with more than 50 employees--now have to provide a clean, private location for mothers to breast-feed for at least a year after they give birth. Bathrooms definitely do not count.
4. It might inspire your employees to quit.
This will depend on what state you're in, and how well your state implements the health insurance exchanges the law is supposed to create. But it could well make it easier for employees to switch jobs, if they've stayed aboard because they need health insurance.
On the plus side for your business, it might make it easier to recruit other employees, and use more freelancers and independent contractors if your business supports it.
5. It includes a Jersey Shore tax.
Well, not the whole Jersey Shore, but there's now a 10 percent federal tax on one of the favorite pastimes of the characters on that bizarre and bizarrely popular television show: indoor tanning.
6. You'll never forget that a McDonald's Big Breakfast With Hotcakes has 1,090 calories.
That's a lot of calories--more than half the intake of a person eating a standard diet that isn't likely to, er, kill you quickly. Thanks to the health care law, caloric information like that will be plastered on the menus of every chain restaurant in America.
(Of course, if you live in New York City, you're already used to this.)
7. It's big on abstinence.
For each of the next five years, the law provides $50 million for abstinence-only education programs in the states. However, each state has to match the funds it receives, dollar for dollar. As The New York Times pointed out, a lot of states have "already stopped participating" in abstinence-only education.
8. Now, W-2s will include health benefits.
Employers will now be required to itemize how much they've paid to cover health insurance premiums for their employees on each worker's W-2 tax form. It's all part of a move to make the amount of money spent on health insurance more transparent.
9. Pregnant teenagers and new moms will get nurses.
The law includes $1.5 billion so that young mothers who need them can get visits once or twice a month from nurses, part of a plan to teach parenting and coping skills.
10. That super-controversial individual mandate is, in fact, pretty weak.
Finally, think of this: Probably the most controversial part of the law was the individual mandate. But, when you look at the fine print, the enforcement mechanism isn't very tough.
As The Washington Post pointed out, it probably just isn't going to fly in some places. Take Oklahoma, for example, where they can't even persuade a quarter of drivers on the road to get car insurance. Even in Massachusetts, a much more liberal state where some other guy serving as governor passed the law that Obamacare was based on, one in 20 residents still hasn't bought health insurance.
The fee for not having insurance--or the tax, whatever--is tied to the uninsured person's income, and it starts at just $95 for the lowest income people. Is that really enough to entice people to spend hundreds for insurance? I guess we're going to find out.
BILL MURPHY JR. | Columnist
Bill Murphy Jr. is a journalist, ghostwriter, and entrepreneur. He is the author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (with Jon Burgstone) and is a former reporter for The Washington Post.