Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=210043
Story Retrieval Date: 10/26/2014 3:27:51 AM CST

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Courtesy of Lovin Oven Cakery

Ken Slove, (third from left) owner of Lovin Oven Cakery, entertains other bakery owners at his Lake County, Ill., business. He says both Obama and Romney have him worried about the future of his health-care costs.


Employers worry as Obama, Romney clash on health-care reform

by Donna M. Marbury
Nov 06, 2012


Highlights of Obamacare

Employers must offer health-care insurance to employees by 2014 or face fines based on their income

 

Most people are mandated to have insurance or face a fine by 2014

 

Businesses and individuals can compare insurance packages with health-care exchanges available in 2014

 

Businesses face a 40% excise tax on low-deductible, big-benefit "Cadillac" polices in 2018


Ken Slove, owner of Lovin Oven Cakery in Lake County, Ill., is frustrated. He offers health insurance to his 22 full-time employees but only four of them can afford it. He doubts that the situation will change no matter which candidate wins the presidential election Tuesday night.

“What Obama is proposing is law, and with the research I’ve done, it is troubling for us,” said Slove, who has 47 employees. “What Romney is proposing is to stop Obamacare, but he has not clearly defined what to replace it with or what to do about health care. I will be watching very closely tonight.”

Slove started his bakery in 1989 and fears that rising health-care costs including penalties under Obamacare for not offering insurance could put him out of business. “It scares the hell out of me. The cost of penalties are really detrimental to a small business where every dollar is needed to keep the business afloat and stay competitive,” he said. “It is a very challenging law that was passed without bad intent. But the practical application of it is just not feasible for me.”

Business owners across the country who are balancing the future of their health-care costs will be on the edge of their seats Tuesday.

The presidential candidates stand a world apart when it comes to health care. President Barack Obama supports the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare, which provides more individual health-care plans, more regulations of private insurance companies and a broadened Medicaid program to include more low-income families. Obamacare overcame Republican resistance in Congress and survived lawsuits challenging its constitutionality in the U.S. Supreme Court in June.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney has pledged to repeal several aspects of Obamacare. His plan limits insurance regulations and provides health-care tax breaks to individuals at the same rate as businesses. Romney also said he plans to give Medicaid grants to states. That would likely reduce federal funding of the program and leave 72 million people uninsured, according to a study by The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit think tank.

Whoever the next president is, there needs to be some business-friendly changes to the Affordable Care Act, said Laura Minzer, executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce Health Care Council, which has more than 160 members. “The No. 1 concern our members have is the cost of health insurance and both candidates look at this issue in different ways,” Minzer said. “Romney is looking to repeal employer mandates, but he can’t come in and repeal everything.”

Minzer said that many of the chamber’s members have begun evaluating their health-care benefits, deciding whether to keep or change benefits to comply with the Affordable Care Act. “It’s less than a year before the open enrollment process starts and employers are looking at what’s best for their bottom line and their employees.”

Most employers plan to continue offering benefits to workers if the Affordable Care Act is fully enacted in 2014, according to a survey released in October by the Midwest Business Group on Health, a non-profit health benefits management organization whose members spend $3 billion on health care.

In 2018 a 40 percent excise tax will be levied on “Cadillac” policies that have low deductibles and generous benefits. And 31 percent of employers surveyed said that they would be reducing those types of plans starting in 2014 to prepare for the tax.

Only 9 percent of employers said they plan to participate in state health-care exchanges that start in 2014. Though most companies offer consumer-directed health plans such as health-care savings accounts, 29 percent said that would be their only health-care benefit by 2018. Almost half of employers said they plan to make dental and/or vision insurance voluntary in 2013.

Larry Boress, CEO of the Midwest Business Group on Health, says the organization has been surveying its 120 member companies since 2010 concerning the Affordable Care Act. “Our members aren’t for or against any candidate. They want the government to lay the ground rules for health care and not micromanage,” Boress said.

“Employers favor a repeal of the excise tax and don’t like the burdensome administrative requirements. They also favor no co-pay on preventative services, the health-care exchanges and, for the most part, the individual mandates. They are not against the major provisions of the law.”

Boress also said that larger companies show concern about complying with a bevy of individualized state health-care laws. “If each state has different requirements, it will become harder to meet 50 different requirements instead of one,” he said.