GUEST COMMENTARY: Feds responsive to businesses' health care concerns

2013-07-15T11:27:00Z 2013-07-15T17:12:08Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Feds responsive to businesses' health care concernsBy Karen Tallian nwitimes.com
July 15, 2013 11:27 am  • 

Many have questioned a recent announcement by the Obama administration to delay the “employer mandate” portion of the Affordable Care Act until 2015. Some wonder how the decision will affect their business or access to health care insurance. President Barack Obama’s decision reflects an understanding for the need for balance, a willingness to acknowledge and address concerns, and create workable solutions.

First, some needed background on the ACA. In basic terms, federal health care reform anticipates every American will obtain health care insurance through Medicare, Medicaid, veterans benefits, a health insurance plan provided by an employer or a plan purchased by an individual.

Under provisions within the ACA, employers with more than 50 employees must provide insurance policies, through affordable programs and then report compliance. If employers fail to offer competitive plans, they might be penalized.

What businesses are affected? Very few. About 96 percent of large American businesses with more than 50 employees already comply with the ACA’s coverage requirements. Small businesses are unaffected. The administration has moved to delay the reporting requirements and the penalty for those businesses that do not provide coverage. The delay provides a cushion for these businesses to put a plan in place.

What workers are affected? Again, relatively few. One of the main components of the ACA, state-level health care exchanges, are scheduled to roll out on Oct. 1. Employees working for those few companies with more than 50 employees but no insurance plans, earning between $23,500 and $94,200 (between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four), will receive subsidies to purchase coverage through the exchanges.

However, one group of Hoosiers might bear the brunt of deferred coverage: low-income working families.

Hoosiers earning less than $23,550 (100 percent of the poverty level for a family of four) who work for a business with more than 50 employees, without an insurance program in place, will fall through the cracks.

These working Hoosiers earn too much to qualify for coverage through Indiana’s current Medicaid assistance program, but don’t earn enough to receive subsidies to purchase insurance through the health care exchanges.

Instead of shoring up this gap by expanding coverage, our governor chose to block the expansion of health care coverage to nearly 400,000 working Hoosiers, forgoing as many as 30,000 new jobs and billions in federal funding.

It is important to keep our eye on the ball as Indiana continues to implement health care reform. The federal government has proven responsive to the concerns of the business community that was not ready for implementation. This delay will affect very few residents. The real problem in Indiana is an administration that has refused to expand health care options for working Hoosier families.

State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, represents Senate District 4. The opinions are the writer's.

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