Tonawanda News

June 19, 2013

Obamacare: The great unknown

--
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I consider myself fairly versed on the nuances of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a Obamacare). I’ve studied the Act for years (even before its adoption), given lectures to local community groups about it, and written about it in these pages and elsewhere.

Despite such engagement, I still don’t know anything. There are so many ill-devised facets of Obama-care that questions abound about their impact, let alone their implementation.

For example, Obamacare requires that employers provide so-called “affordable” health care that cannot exceed 9.5 percent percent of an employee’s household income — not their income from that employer, but their total household income. How can an employer, with all of the federal and state privacy laws in effect, request an employee’s family income so that the employer can assess the affordability of the insurance offered?

Or, where will insurance premiums be in 2014? We know there will be a $63 per person surcharge to cover the costs of the uninsured and there will be an added tax on health insurance companies (which, of course, get passed on to consumers). And then you have to figure that the medical device excise tax introduced this year will start appearing as an added cost of premiums going forward. These all represent just a portion of the new burdens.

Those concerns, just a few of many, are making Obamacare a great unknown for not only me, but all employers — including the insurance companies themselves!

I’ve tried to find answers, but my questions haven’t been and won’t be easily answered. Health and Human Services has multiple easy ways to contact them if you receive public healthcare (Medicaid and Medicare), but offers only limited ways (and a painful phone system with ill-prepared personnel) if you are an employer or employee who provides and/or buys insurance (go figure). Worse yet, the fed’s clerical individuals who are supposed to have the answers don’t because their bosses — and those we elect to oversee them — don’t either.

It’s so frustrating because 2014 really isn’t that far away (six-and-a-half months from now) and business owners need to have started planning by now. No business can wait till the eleventh hour (December) to make determinations about their healthcare costs and their budgets for 2014. Most businesses are much more forward thinking than that, planning things strategically years out, and, at a smaller scale, months, not days, out.

By time answers are available and the necessary federal and state systems are in place it will be too late (Are we looking at October if not a brief postponement/moratorium of Obamacare?). By then, employers will be scrambling to figure out how to insure/uninsure their people, how to cover the new expenses, and how to pass the higher costs on to consumers.

It’s stressful enough for someone in my shoes running a business, but what about those who will be affected by our decisions? Right now, most Americans really aren’t thinking about their 2014 healthcare bills; they’re living in and worried about 2013. But, they will have to think and act once their employers do. What will they do if Obamacare forces their bosses to drop insurance or make all of their employees part-time or adopt a high deductible plan in which massive surcharges are paid by employees or drop spouses from health plans? Those responses will significantly affect the financial matters of a majority of households in America. If any of those situations or any other Obamacare remedies occur, how can the average family afford what will happen? They can’t.

So, the longer that answers are kept away from the business sector, the longer answers are kept from working families. That’s no way to run a business. That’s no way to run a household.

As a matter of fact, that’s no way to run a government — is this really the hope and change everyone bargained for?

Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the New American magazine at TheNewAmerican.com. Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer.