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Local employers not sure of effect of health care legislation

December 3, 2012
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, in the face of much opposition. After surviving a challenge in the courts, and the Republican presidential candidate's promise to repeal the bill, the provisions of the act go into effect in stages, which started in 2010 and will continue to 2020.

Understanding how the PPACA will affect local employers is difficult because the bill is long and complex.

Lyle Patzer and his brother, Mark, employ 19 people at Patzer's Hardware in Marshall.

"I don't know," Patzer said. "I'm not sure at my level if it's going to have any effect or not, I'm not big enough. It's such an unknown because it's a 90-thousand page document that nobody's ever read."

Patzer's does not offer a heath care plan to its employees because it's not feasible with so few workers, Patzer said.

Greenwood Nursery is a seasonal employer. Right now it has about 10 full-time employees, but in season employs as many as 40.

"I'm not sure what the effect will be," said Jason Farber, store manager. "From what I understand you won't have to provide insurance until you've reached 50 employees or more. I think you don't have to offer the same coverage to part time employees, but I really haven't looked at it closely enough."

Greenwood does not offer an employee health insurance plan. According to Farber, the cost of a plan would be an expense equal to one full-time employee or more.

Though Greenwood probably won't be directly affected by the PPACA, it could affect plans for expansion if it involves hiring enough full-time employees to put them at the point provisions of the bill would cover them, according to Farber.

Bob Sternke employs 60 people at True Value Hardware, most of them long term with an average of 10 to 12 years on the job. True Value offers a health care plan and pays 100 percent of the employee premiums, with an option to buy coverage for their families.

"Of course we're waiting to see what the final version is," Sternke said, "but from what I understand right now we're under the minimum plan they require. We'd have to change what we're doing to meet their requirements and the cost would be huge. I don't know what we're going to do."

According to Sternke, if True Value doesn't provide health care insurance for their employees they'd be fined $2,000 per year, per employee, and this would actually save them a substantial amount of money.

"I think most big companies are just going to pay the fine," Sternke said.

But some companies that are big enough may not feel the effects at all, according to Roger Evert, human resources manager at Runnings Farm and Fleet.

Runnings employs about 130 people in Marshall, and 1,175 in the four-state area it operates in.

"It kind of depends on who you listen to," Evert said. "We're still waiting on our insurance brokers for all the information, but I'm not as worried as some people are. Based on the health care plan we already have, the implications for our employees' coverage are not as significant as some people fear they are going to be."

Runnings offers employees a choice between single coverage, employee plus one, or family coverage. The employees pay a percentage of the premium but Runnings pays the majority of it.

"As to what actions we take or need to take, that'll have to wait until we meet with our brokers after the first of the year," Evert said.



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