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Experts: Obamacare is not going away, businesses must adapt

Small and large business owners alike perked their ears March 18 at the Better Business Bureau panel discussion on what changes to healthcare laws, aka “Obamacare,” means for businesses in Williamson County.

“This will affect every man, woman and child in the United States,” said Evelyn Sanders, vice chairman of the BBB’s advisory board during opening statements at the breakfast seminar.

The healthcare panel comprised local experts spoke to speak to issues related to the Affordable Care Act and its implications this year and beyond. Panelist Kirby Horton, owner and president of Preferred Health Group, Inc. in Franklin, called for the approximately 70 business owners in attendance to adapt to the change quickly in order to be in compliance with the law.

“This isn’t going away. Congress passed it,” she said. “The president signed it, and the Supreme Court upheld it. It is here to stay.”

The new law calls for large businesses, defined as 50 employees or more, to provide health insurance for its employees, and calls for small businesses, defined as fewer than 50 employees, to choose whether or not to implement an insurance plan. Under the law, large businesses will be required to offer affordable and compliant coverage for their employees by Jan. 1, 2014 or pay a penalty of $2,000 per employee a year.

“The most important thing is to not procrastinate,” Horton said. “Develop a strategy as soon as possible. Make sure you consult with a trusted advisor who specializes in the field of employee benefits. Don’t delegate within your organization to human resources or to the business manager. This should be taken care of at the highest levels. It could be a business killer if not acted upon properly.”

Panelists described insurance options currently available and how each might affect their company, large or small. Although large businesses must adopt an insurance coverage option or risk a fine, panelist Doug Rogers, owner and president of Benefits Associates, said small business owners must also act. According to the BBB, small organizations make up about 86 percent of entities represented by the Better Business Bureau, and not offering insurance coverage could affect their ability to retain and recruit employees.

Aside from precise planning and thoughtful action, Horton informed business owners to expect costs to increase especially in the first year.

“Costs will increase,” said Horton. “Tens of thousands of pages of text have to be read, understood and implemented by accountants, lawyers, and hospitals. The entire economy has to get their hands around it, and there will be sheer costs to become compliant.” 

“When I talk to business owners, it seems that they are most fearful about changes. It will change how they do business,” said Elizabeth Mefford, BBB regional vice president. “Businesses have to know how to prepare and plan in order to make a smooth transition by January 2014.”

Acknowledging that change can be difficult, Horton told the group.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” he said. “There are challenges, but challenges are not alien to us. We face challenges everyday as business owners. It’s been that way forever.”

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Posted on: 3/22/2013


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