Health Care Law Perplexing To Business Owners

By MICHAEL VIRTANEN

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) â¿¿ Restaurant owners Colleen and Tim Holmes were considering opening a third business in a growing upstate New York suburb but decided against it. One factor was the risk from expanding their staff beyond 50 full-time employees and having to provide them federally mandated health coverage.

Despite knowing the penalty for that part of the Affordable Care Act had been postponed for a year, the couple said their margins are thin and the requirements and costs under the law remain unclear.

They also face some disruption from their current health plan, with some coverage moving to the new insurance exchange after this year. They've discussed whether they need to hire a consultant to help them understand what the law means for the owners of small businesses, but it's an expense they'd rather not have. Yet they have little time to research the act on their own, since they already work more than 70 hours a week.

"As small-business owners we take all the risk and we employ a lot of people, so any additional cost is difficult for us to justify without having additional revenue," Colleen Holmes said.

Even though they offer health insurance, the couple said most of their employees refuse it because of the cost of premiums and because most are young and feel they don't need it or can now get coverage under their parents' policies through age 26.

At costs ranging from $300 to $500 a month for one healthy employee, the business could not afford to pay a fraction of the premiums, they said. At even $100 a month, it would be $5,000 monthly for 50 workers.

"Where's that money going to come from?" Colleen Holmes said.

Her husband said it would be more advantageous for their employees to go directly to the new health exchange for individual coverage because it can be subsidized by the government.

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