You may or may not support President Obama or health care reform. Save it for November. Today, consider the business opportunities the legislation offers you.
Republicans: stop crying. Democrats: stop gloating. Scientologists: leave Katie alone. And business people: let's get to work.
The Affordable Care Act is real. It's law. And it's moving forward. That's a fact. And, while so many business owners are figuring out how this change in health insurance law will impact their businesses, many others are doing what Americans do best: figuring out how to profit from it. Because that's what smart entrepreneurs do. Other than on election day, they put aside their emotions, tuck their political leanings aside, and work within the current environment to maximize profits. Politics are important, of course. But a business owner has payroll to meet, a family to feed, and partners, customers, and suppliers who rely on his or her business.
So you may or may not support President Obama. You may or may not agree with health care reform. Let your opinions be known in November. In the meantime, consider these 11 ways to profit from health care reform. Because I promise you, your competitors are doing just that.
1. Lower your tax expense.
If you're employing fewer than 25 full time people whose average salary is less than $50,000 per year then you're entitled to a tax credit for a portion of what you're paying each year in health insurance. The maximum credit (50%) is available for those who employ fewer than 10 full time people making an average of $25,000 per year. Don't get excited. The chances of you getting the full credit are about the same as me ever seeing this movie. But there are still a few bucks for grabs, so grab them.
2. Do business with the new state exchanges.
By January 1, 2014 all my children are required to have moved out of my house and all states are required to have exchanges set up so that individuals and companies can purchase their health insurance. Many states have delayed action on this, pending the outcome of the Supreme Court decision. Now it's on. How can you get business from the state exchanges? Does your firm provide web programming or design services? Are there opportunities for development work? Any interest in taking on college age boarders? You bet there are. Contact your state (or me) now. Many of us need the help.
3. Get rid of your health insurance.
When the fabled state exchanges are up and running you'll be encouraged to let your employees get health insurance through them. What is this dark magic and how will it work? You'll also be required to maintain a "qualified" health plan, and if you don't, you'll be penalized--I'm sorry, I mean, "taxed"--according to the Supreme Court. So why fight city hall? It may still be cheaper for your business in the long run if your employees purchase their health insurance from the state exchanges, even with the penalty you'll have to pay and some employee reimbursement from you. For sure it'll be easier to budget your health insurance costs and it will certainly eliminate the internal cost (not to mention the complaints) of your office manager who has to handle all the forms and communications required by your current plan.
4. Take advantage of pre-existing conditions.
No one can deny that Batman is a nutcase. But what business wouldn't want to hire him for overnight security? Hiring a guy with deep psychological issues like Batman in the past wasn't easy. But now anyone with a pre-existing condition will soon be able to move from job to job and insurance companies are not allowed to drop or deny coverage. So now you can hire that key person with that special skill (or a really cool Batarang) who you couldn't hire before because he or she would lose coverage. And if you're an employee looking to switch jobs or start your own business and couldn't before, now you can too.
5. If you're in biotech, you're in the right place.
In recent years, the web, mobile, and Betty White have gotten all the attention. But with 34 million more people entering the health care market, many experts predict the emergence of new industry stars: those firms that develop medical and biotechnology products. A science writer who reported on the bill's original passage said: "...there are two small bits in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that are immediately relevant and timely for the biotechnology industry. One provides tax breaks for smaller biotechnology companies, while the other simplifies some aspects of the regulatory landscape and adds some complicated wrinkles." Time for another biotech boom?
6. Jump into electronic health records.
With so many more new customers entering the health insurance market, the activity around electronic health records will no doubt heat up. Buoyed by a $20 billion investment as part of the 2009 stimulus, I recently wrote how the progress towards creating electronic health records has taken a large leap forward. Look for even more opportunities if you can help integrate existing software systems, write code to improve user interfaces, play a professional sport without relying on performance enhancing drugs, sell and customize tablets and handhelds for doctors to use, or provide training and consulting.
7. Consider consulting or speaking.
There's going to be plenty of need for consulting and speaking, and overall imparting knowledge of the health care law, over the next few years. Just about every client I know is confused by how this law will impact their business. They need help. If you're an expert (or can sing and dance a little) there are plenty of opportunities to help small, medium, and large companies navigate the way around the law. And plenty of other ways to speak to groups about the plan's effects. Do I stick with our existing plan? Do I drop coverage and send employees to the state exchanges? What are the state exchanges? When will Betty White host SNL again? See what I mean?
8. Offer indirect services to the health care industry.
Hospitals and other health care providers have been applauding the Supreme Court ruling. Why? Because, like it or not, the Act adds millions of new customers to their market and a way for insurance companies to pay for services. That can only mean more business for them. To me, that means growth. Maybe you're not in the health care business. But that doesn't mean that the health care business can't do business with your business. Growing organizations will still need help with office supplies, technology, waste removal, capital equipment, even landscaping. Smart business owners I know hitch themselves with growing industries and promote services to them. This way they grow together.
9. Keep an eye on new markets.
The Act will certainly be opening up new markets where you can sell your products and services. For example, one acupuncturist is on pins and needles because "....by 2014, Section 3502 of President Obama's health care reform could mandate the Bureau of Health Statistics to formally recognize acupuncture as a profession, opening the door to Medicare coverage for acupuncture, serving our growing elderly population, as well as providing it as an option for millions of low- and middle-income Americans in need of care." Wow.
10. Help wanted: payments and process consulting.
Are you an expert in electronic payments, mobile technology, or business process consulting? Consider this: Section 3021 of the legislation establishes the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which will set out to innovate payment and delivery of services to patients. And this: Section 6301 gives funding for a new patient-centered Outcomes Research Institute, which will help government, employers, consumers, and private insurers determine which treatments and procedures offer good value for the cost. Fore sure, these are organizations that could use your consulting help if you've got the expertise.
11. Become an auditor.
It's great that health care coverage will be provided for all, including the 34 million or so who don't currently have it. And it's great that the government will penalize--I'm sorry, tax--those that don't sign up for health insurance. And if people couldn't afford health insurance before, there's a good chance that many won't be able to afford it no matter what the penalty--I mean, tax--is. But who's going to enforce that? If it's a tax, then it must be the IRS. Here come the auditors! Plenty of experts feel that there will be a significant need for auditors to help enforce this law. Maybe your firm can help?
The country will survive health care reform. Who knows? We may even be better off from it. Two things about the legislation are for sure: Some smart entrepreneurs will profit from the changes in the law. And Betty White will probably use it to figure out a way to live another hundred years.
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GENE MARKS is a columnist, author, and small-business owner. He oversees the Marks Group, a 10-person technology consultancy to small and medium-size businesses. A certified public accountant, Marks has also worked in the entrepreneurial services arm of KPMG. He writes for The New York Times, Forbes, and The Huffington Post.