Cover Story: Obamacare: This Might Hurt a Little

An examination of what the Affordable Care Act means to your business

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

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Saving grace or socialism? Law of the land or doomed to fail? Capitalism or big government?

The polarity and confusion surrounding President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) have run rampant since health-care reform was signed into law four years ago on March 23, 2010.

Mila Spencer knows firsthand. Brought on as benefits manager for La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip just after the law took effect, she has had to navigate its mandates while upholding the chain’s hard-earned reputation of taking care of its people.

“It’s compliance-driven,” Spencer says of the law. “We’ve always managed our plan well, but now with all the regulations, it may stop feeling like a Kwik Trip health-care plan.”

Even for a company with resources to address the issue, Spencer’s job is complicated, she says, particularly regarding part-time employees working more than 30 hours a week, who under the ACA are deemed full-time employees.

“We’ve always had part-time benefits and a considerable number of employees in that 30-plus range, so the potential increase in cost is a concern to us,” Spencer says.

Also, Kwik Trip is self-insured, which adds to the impending burden. “We have a 40% profit-sharing plan, so when you look at a significant increase like that, it impacts the entire workforce.” She declined to share a dollar amount for the increase.

C-store operators as large as Kwik Trip—which has 11,000 employees and 450 stores—all the way to single-store momand- pops have suffered the extremes of frustration and ambiguity over the new law, with only one thing for certain: The June 2012 upholding of the ACA by the Supreme Court and the President’s November 2012 victory over Republican hopeful Mitt Romney suggest that “Obamacare” is here to stay.

“There has been a tremendous battle of sound bites over health-care reform,” says Nick Tate, deputy heath editor for Newsmax Media and author of the New York Times best seller “ObamaCare Survival Guide.” “What’s happening now is some of the practical implications are starting to play out.”

Tate himself embraced the moniker “Obamacare” because while opponents initially used the name to demonize the law and forever tie the reform to its No. 1 backer, he believes it’ll be Obama’s legacy if history proves the program a success.

Speculation aside, Tate says the law has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, certain individuals are clearly ahead: Those with pre-existing conditions won’t be penalized when obtaining insurance; those younger than 26 can stay covered under their parents’ policies without penalty; and several advantages play out for seniors.

Businesses with fewer than 25 employees can take advantage of new tax breaks, while those with fewer than 50 employees can sign on for what may be less costly plans via government options.


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