Health care regulations still a work in progress as 2014 approaches

Posted: Apr. 6, 2013 12:15 am Updated: Apr. 20, 2013 1:15 am

By DOUG WILSONHerald-Whig Senior Writer

Kevin Kuhlman of the National Federation of Independent Business said there are lots of unknowns about health insurance rules set to take effect in January.

Kuhlman, the NFIB's manager of legislative affairs, gave a report Friday to a group of Quincy business people, and he got a few groans of sympathy when the audience learned that Kuhlman has read the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

"I call it Obamacare now that the president has embraced that name," Kuhlman said.

Some parts of the law have been known for a while, such as the definition of a large business: any employer with 50 or more full-time or full-time-equivalent employees. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are considered small businesses.

Affordable insurance premiums are considered those that cost less than 9.5 percent of an employee's income. That definition is important because employers who offer unaffordable health care coverage can face a $3,000 penalty for each worker. Those who offer no insurance can face a $2,000 penalty based on a percentage formula.

In addition to employer-provided health care coverage, each state is expected to have two health care exchanges where people can purchase health insurance. But employees cannot qualify for an exchange if their employer offers an "affordable" plan.

"About two weeks ago a professional actuaries group released a study that said premiums are expected to rise 32 percent nationwide," Kuhlman said.

Proponents of the health care reform have vilified that study.

Kuhlman said he did not want to be accused of talking only about problems of the law. He said it is designed to expand health insurance for 30 million people who are uninsured.

On the negative side, the estimates of the number of people who will lose employer sponsored insurance range up to 21 million.

One local business woman said she works with employees from Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. She wanted to know whether she will have to deal with different rules and different private insurers in three states. Kuhlman said he'll have to research that question.