The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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August 23, 2013

Employers air concerns

CLINTON — Brenda and Chuck Thornton want to take care of their employees. But the Homer’s Deli and Sweetheart Bakery owners are riddled with frustration because of uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act.

Nearly 50 area employer representatives attended a program about the Affordable Care Act on Thursday to gain insight into what kinds of impacts the federal healthcare reform legislation will have on their businesses.

They left with more than additional knowledge.

“I am more frustrated than ever,” Brenda said after the two-hour session, which was put on through a collaboration between the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce, the Clinton Regional Development Corp., the Iowa State University Extension office and Clinton Community College.

“My concern is my employees are like my family and there’s so much we’re going to be required to do and the only answer to questions about this is ‘maybe,’” Brenda said. “I want to take care of my employees, but I don’t know what this means.”

Alice Helle, a lawyer with BrownWinick and Sean Yolish, the vice president of benefits for Merit Resources tried to explain some of the mandates and regulations that employers will be subject to under the law.

The pair touched on a slew of topics such as the requirements for both large and small employers, options for providing coverage, individual mandates and the penalties employers could face.

The Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP exchange generated a great deal of discssion. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have to set up a SHOP exchange that enables small businesses (those with 50 or fewer employees in Iowa) to offer health insurance although they are not required to under the healthcare reform.

Through the exchange, employers will designate how much they would like to cover of their employees’ insurance. A handful carriers have been approved to be in Iowa’s exchange. Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which provides three-quarters of all policies sold to individuals and small businesses in Iowa, has opted to wait until 2015 to participate in the exchange.

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