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Health and Medicine

Ohio small businesses stumble through the Affordable Care Act
Delays and complicated rules make the process difficult

Complicated laws and website delays can make it difficult for small business owners to understand the Affordable Care Act.
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Small businesses around Ohio are struggling to sort out the details of the Affordable Care Act. It is unclear whether recent delays in the law help or add to the confusion.

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The big Obamacare question for small employers is this: Am I required to provide health insurance to my employees or not?

"And that question is sort of like that underwear commercial: boxers, briefs, depends," says Paul Tambe with BW Employee Benefits as he speaks to Dayton-area small business owners.

Rules of the game
And yes, it does depend. Here is the basic rule: Companies with less than 50 full-time employees are exempt. Companies with 50 or more need to provide health coverage for their full-timers or pay fines.

But the devil is in the details, and there are a lot of details. For example, full-time means an 30 hours or more per week, averaged over the month.

Kevin Finley with Space Management, a Dayton cleaning service, says his first challenge is just counting his employees.

"When you’re operating a business and someone’s off sick and you want someone else to cover, all of a sudden that person who normally works 20, 25 hours is working 40 hours," Finley says. "So, you know, it’s a little dicey.

And the timing of the employer mandate recently got pushed back to 2015 for larger companies and now to 2016 for those with 50 to 99 full-time employees.

Waiting for the web
Meanwhile, the online marketplace for small businesses to shop for plans is still not online.

Amy Crouch, an employee benefits expert at BW, says this transition is full of bumps as the administration issues rules and subrules based on an already complex law.

"You get into tax and law and IRS," Crouch says. "That’s not always fun. And then on a lot of these items, it’s what it’s going to mean in the future in terms of a practical perspective. ... Time will tell."

She calls the future of health care the “new world.” But right now, she says, we’re still partly living in the old one.

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