Are you the proud owner of one of the 21 million companies in the U.S. with employees? Are you one of the approximately 500,000 who has more than 50 full-time equivalent employees? Then by now you know that, after January 1, 2015 (if you have 100 full-time equivalent people) or January 2016 (if you have 50), you will be required by law to provide affordable health insurance to your full-time workers or those working on average more than 30 hours per week. Congrats!
Don't have 50 people? You're still affected! There will be more paperwork. Your employees will be needing guidance. You may be taking advantage of the health care tax credit or moving your insurance to the SHOP exchanges once they're up and running. Of more concern is that your business may be subject to significant premium increases, depending on how the insurance companies deal with the changing market of (we hope) new enrollees. Or significant tax increases down the road if the government's costs projections don't work out and taxpayers need to make up the difference.
But can we all calm down for a moment? Because, at least for the next few years, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not going to change your business too much. And unless there's a new amendment providing coverage for the treatment of male pattern baldness, it will not change my life very much either. Why? Four reasons.
- You're already providing insurance to your employees. Just about all of the clients I have with more than 50 people are offering, and paying for, some type of health insurance. These are not good, kind, decent people. Like you and me, these are hard-nosed, cynical, profit-hungry business owners. Sorry, no offense--but let's call it as we see it. You, like them, want to profit. And to profit you need to employ the best people. A good health insurance plan is a competitive advantage and something that's expected by a prospective employee. Why would you stop providing health insurance in 2015 just because the government says there will be a fine when you've been providing coverage all these years when there wasn't a fine? Oh, and sure, sure, you do care about your employees and want to do your part to help look after them and their families. But let's not let too many know about that, shall we? It'll just ruin your reputation.
- You're also likely providing affordable insurance. Most of my clients who are now reviewing the new Bronze, Silver, and other plans under the ACA are discovering that they've been more generous than they previously thought. Many are finding that their plans are well over the minimum coverage required by the law and, in fact, have already been offering plans that exceed the basics of the Bronze plan. See? It took President Obama to point out to you just how kind and generous you are! And aren't you already at least paying for most, if not all, of the employee's individual coverage too? For the most part, your company can keep the same plan it has or get something similar. This is what the overwhelming majority of my clients are doing.
- You are likely not a religious organization or a hobby. Yesterday's Supreme Court "Hobby Lobby" ruling aside, most of the privately held businesses in this country are not faith-based. So just because you're a die-hard Bears fan, don't even think of applying for an exemption. Even the business owners I know who are against contraception or hold other similar beliefs are not forcing these beliefs on their employees. I realize that the Amish furniture maker may have a problem with the law (which is surprising to me, considering that one of the most popular Amish towns located near me is called Intercourse, PA, but who am I to judge?). For the most part, your employees' religious beliefs have little impact on yours and as long as they're getting their work done, you'll let them "contracept" themselves all they want. And yes, that's not even a word.
- You're already used to premium increases. Yes, we're all frightened that premiums may skyrocket. But wasn't this the same fear we had 10 years ago when our President was just a young man of sound judgment, easy motions, proper dress, and general good character? And wasn't that a quote taken directly from a Thomas Hardy classic? In either case, things haven't changed. Young English sheep farmers were frequently ruined by events not in their control and old, tired business owners like you and me will continue to grapple with the increasing costs of health care, regardless of who's sitting in the White House. A 10% increase? 20%? Yeah, we've seen it before. And no matter how high it gets we're still not going to leave our people out in the cold. We'll think of something.
Of course, there will be companies more affected by the health care law than others. Certain nonprofits. Religious organizations. Companies that are on the bubble of 50 full-timers and trying to figure out if it makes more sense to provide coverage, pay the penalty, or just start showing up to work in a black cassock-alb. But these are the minority. I've got the same concerns about the long-term cost effects of this law. But for the great majority of businesses in this country, including mine, the Affordable Care Act will have little impact. At least for the next few years. Feeling better now?