SBDC Breaks Down Impact Of Affordable Care Act On Small Businesses

Area small business owners came away from Jamestown Community College with a better understanding of the ways in which the Affordable Care Act will impact them.

On Wednesday, nearly 50 business owners attended a presentation by the New York State Small Business Development Center at JCC designed to condense more than 2,000 pages worth of legislation into an hour-long information session.

The presentation was given in the form of a slideshow by SBDC business advisers Curt Anderson and Nick Ferrara, who have traveled throughout the region hosting a series of similar presentations. According to Ferrara, the presentations are intended to provide business owners with the most crucial pieces of information on the legislation in a straightforward and individualistic manner.

“Really, (the purpose) is to get the word out,” Ferrara said. “There’s so much misinformation out there, and a lot of business owners don’t know about it. And it’s not politically motivated. We just want to present the facts, and that’s our goal. We’re here to help small businesses, and this will help them with their decision-making process.”

Several topics were discussed in detail, including tax credits, employer mandates, navigators and the online-based Small Business Help Options Program Marketplace.

The presentation began with a graph showing health insurance premiums, and workers’ contribution to them, increasing by more than three times the amount of workers’ earnings between 1999 and 2011. Ferrara presented statistics showing that 2.8 million New York residents, equivalent to 15 percent, lack health insurance, while one in three said they or a family member postponed medical care or a prescription because of a lack of money or insurance.

The presentation explained how the Affordable Care Act hopes to solve the problem through a “three-legged approach” by providing protection for the insured, increasing access to coverage and exercising cost containment through individual and employer mandates.

Continuing on, the presentation also said employer tax credits are currently being made available for up to 35 percent of the employer’s share of premium costs – with requirements being that the employer has less than 25 employees, average annual wages of less than $50,000 and pays at least 50 percent of premium costs. Nonprofit organizations are also eligible for the tax credits. The tax credits can be claimed through IRS Form 8491, available at www.irs.gov.

Also discussed was the delayed employer penalty for large businesses which aren’t offering health care to employees. Originally set to begin on Jan. 1, 2014, the penalty was delayed until 2015, allowing large employers more time to conform to the new rules. The presentation said this penalty will have no impact on small businesses.

Anderson discussed at length the SHOP Marketplace, which is an online insurance marketplace where individuals and sole proprietors will be able to purchase health insurance products – making it easier for small employers to offer coverage to their employees. He described the marketplace to be “like ‘Orbitz’ with an interface like ‘Turbo Tax.'” Only small businesses with less than 50 employees are eligible, and open enrollment for the program will begin Oct. 1 for Jan. 1, 2014 coverage.

In summarizing the impact of the Affordable Care Act on New York state, Anderson said New Yorkers will get $2.4 billion per year in federal subsidies to make insurance affordable, New York will save $2.3 billion per year in its Medicaid program while expanding coverage to its 80,000 new enrollees and hospital cuts – which have been in excess of $16 million over the past decade – will be offset by the newly insured.

“Overall, the hope and goal for small business owners is that the Affordable Care Act will live up to its name,” Anderson said.

The Small Business Development Center aims to deliver high quality business counseling and training to clients looking to start a business or improve the performance of an existing business. For more information on the SBDC or its Affordable Care Act presentation, go to jamestown.nyssbdc.org or call 338-1024.