Local business law attorney Brad Oxford has spent the last several months up to his elbows in the Affordable Care Act, trying to advise employers large and small about their legal responsibilities under Obamacare, and Oxford says he thinks in balance, Obamacare will help more companies and employees than it hurts, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"They're going to find health coverage to be more affordable," said Oxford, who is 'of counsel' with the local firm of Strasburger & Price LLC. "I think we will see an increase in the number of people around the country who will have health insurance."
Oxford says the fact that many of the penalties larger employers would have faced for failing to participate in the Affordable Care Act have been delayed for a year, means many employees of those firms will see little or no changes in their health plans.
"The employer penalties do not apply until January 1 of 2015, so there is nothing employers need to worry about in way of penalties until 2015," he said. "But employers need to make plans and provisions for a lot of things that take effect January 1, 2014."
He says those include a maximum of 90 days waiting period to get onto a health insurance policy, and policies can no longer exclude customers who have pre existing conditions. Annual and lifetime benefit limits also are outlawed, so employer plans will have to comply.
For smaller companies, defined as under 50 employees, which have been unable to offer health insurance to their handful of employees due to the costs, Oxford says tax benefits and other incentives may allow them to offer coverage for the first time. That is something which will allow the smallest firms to compete with larger companies for top employees.
"Smaller businesses may find getting a health plan to be more affordable through the exchange," he said.
Oxford points out that one benefit to Obamacare that a lot of people may not realize is that employees of companies which do offer health coverage are no longer tied to accepting that plan only. He says employees with certain lifestyle requirements, say, women who are actively trying to get pregnant, may be able to find an insurance policy which more suits their needs on the exchange, rather than dealing with a 'one size fits all' policy offered to all employees.
"The individual employees can go to the exchanges and get health plan coverage, and if their income is at a certain level, the individual will be able to receive a premium tax credit," he said. Of course, check with your employer to see if any payments that the company may make toward your health coverage will still apply if you purchase insurance other than the policy the company officers, and many may not.
He says employer penalties and liability are the biggest questions that many employers have been asking him about.
"Even though those have been delayed until 2015, that is something employers need to be planning for now," Oxford said.
"I think smaller businesses may find getting coverage to be more affordable, especially with the small business tax credits," he said.
Oxford says none of his clients has indicated that they plan to drop employee or spouse coverage, or cut back hours of employees due to the Affordable Care Act.
"From what we have seen so far, and we are early into this process, but I think employees are going to see good things," he said.