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Published March 07, 2013, 11:30 PM

Business roundtable explores impact of Affordable Care Act

Overhaul to mean higher costs, Greater ND Chamber CEO says
FARGO – Taxes aimed at health insurance companies via the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will mean higher costs for small businesses and likely affect millions of workers nationwide.

By: Dave Olson, INFORUM

FARGO – Taxes aimed at health insurance companies via the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will mean higher costs for small businesses and likely affect millions of workers nationwide.

That was one of the messages Andy Peterson, president and CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber, shared Thursday during a business roundtable in Fargo that explored possible ramifications the Affordable Care Act holds for employers and employees.

Calling the Affordable Care Act anything but affordable, Peterson told a group of about two dozen people gathered at the Ramada Plaza and Suites that he doesn’t like the law.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said.

Judd Wagner, vice president of marketing and chief marketing officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, said foot traffic at Blue Cross offices has doubled, with people coming in full of questions regarding the law and how it may affect them.

Providing answers can be difficult, he said.

The law is so complex and filled with hidden features that what is considered true one day may not be true the next, said Wagner, who added “there’s not a single expert in the country” when it comes to the Affordable Care Act.

Under the law, employees who average at least 30 hours a week at companies employing 50 full-time equivalents or more must be provided affordable health insurance coverage if their company offers the benefit.

Companies that fail to follow the rule face paying a penalty.

Peterson said he envisions companies turning increasingly to contract workers to avoid costs.

Wagner and others at the roundtable said some companies are talking about reducing hours for employees to drop them below 30 hours a week to avoid insurance expenses.

Companies may choose to drop health insurance as a benefit completely, but that could result in costly penalties. Blue Cross Blue Shield officials said they don’t see it being a good step at this time because there are so many unknowns.

The message to employers Thursday: Sit tight and don’t make any changes to insurance plans, for now.

Blue Cross Blue Shield officials said many of the company’s group customers are adopting a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to health care reforms.

Thursday’s event was hosted by the Bismarck-based Consensus Council and members of the Stop the HIT Coalition, an organization representing small-business owners, their employees and the self-employed, who support repeal of the health insurance tax, a component of the Affordable Care Act.


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Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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