Health care meetings help educate business owners

2013-08-16T00:00:00Z Health care meetings help educate business ownersVanessa Renderman, (219) 933-3244

Editor's note: This story is part of an occasional series that looks at how the Affordable Care Act affects the region.

Six local business people sat at round green tables and noshed on sandwiches and salad on the backyard deck of Diane Kania's Gary home and business Thursday.

After small talk and introductions, Kania stood up and launched into a presentation about the Affordable Care Act.

As the legislation, often called Obamacare, continues to roll out, local organizations are setting up information sessions and forums to address common questions, especially from small business owners.

Kania, a broker for Lakeshore Health Insurance Brokers and insurance associate representing Aflac, hosted the presentation in affiliation with the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

She circulated hand-outs about deadlines, definitions and regulations, including sample letters that businesses can send to employees to inform them of their options under Obamacare. 

Despite the growing effort to educate people about the law, some will ignore it, she said.

"People like me and insurance companies are trying to educate people, but there's a segment of the population that just doesn't care," Kania said. 

Another small group gathered Tuesday to learn about health care. Part of a day-long human resources boot camp at the Hammond INnovation Center was dedicated to the topic. 

The White House in July announced employers will have an extra year to comply with an Obamacare mandate that requires employers with more than 50 full-time or equivalent employees to offer health insurance or pay a penalty.

Although employers were given an extension, the law still requires individuals to be insured by Jan. 1, Aflac insurance agent Katie Uran said.

"Your employees are still going to look to you for benefit advice," she said.

Health care broker Ed Peterson, of Comprehensive Benefits Group in Merrillville, said no one can predict how Obamacare will unfold.

That is not cause to fear.

"Don't let this thing frighten you," he said. "Don't let it frighten you. Take it step by step."

Some companies are scared they're going to be "strung up" if they don't do everything right, Peterson said. But, he predicts the government will offer some initial leniency for genuine errors as companies comply with the legislation.

"Don't panic on this," he said. "Don't lose any sleep."

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