Getting Ready: Forum Offers Employers Guidance On Pending Health Care Reforms

By Jeff Neumeyer

March 28, 2013 Updated Mar 28, 2013 at 6:01 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) --- Many business owners are getting nervous about the approaching effective date of the "Affordable Care Act", which will change the rules of the game for providing health care coverage in the work world.

The Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce on Thursday sponsored a forum for employers to learn about what the changes will mean for them.

Advocates for "ObamaCare" insist that offering coverage to millions of Americans, who've gone without insurance for years, is the right thing to do.

But a lot of employers will be dealing with headaches when the new rules kick in.

A panel of industry experts at the forum provided insight on new requirements and responsibilities that will take effect soon, and what employers need to prepare for in the health care arena.

Companies with more than 50 full-time workers will be subject to a penalty if they choose not to offer health care coverage.

But that may not sound bad, when providing insurance can cost employers more than $10,000 for each person on the payroll.

" They can turn around and drop them, and only take approximately a $2,000 penalty under the Affordable Care Act. That's a decision that more and more employers are going to take," said Matt Kelley, the chairperson for the Fort Wayne Chamber’s Legislative Council.

" I think a lot of companies are going to opt out and take the penalty, and then all these individuals are going to be thrown in this exchange, and no one knows how it's going to work," said Liz Brown, a former Fort Wayne city council member, who attended the forum as an interested citizen.

For people who don't get coverage through an employer, under the Affordable Care Act, there will be the opportunity to enroll in a health care exchange, to get coverage as an individual.

Depending on a person’s income level, coverage could be subsidized through federal tax dollars.

But experts on the panel indicate the enrollment process will be tedious, with folks having to slog through long forms to qualify for insurance benefits.

Doug Powers, an attorney with Beckman Lawson LLP, specializes in the employee benefit arena.

He says most companies will be hesitant to drop health care coverage, because it would put them at a competitive disadvantage with other employers, especially if a business relies on a highly skilled workforce to meet customer demands.

But the situation could be different if an enormous number of employers opt to drop coverage, in the interest of cost savings.

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