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Small businesses around Norwin area wary of healthcare law's impact

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

The impending Affordable Care Act has several local business owners attempting to understand how it will affect their companies.

The act, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, offers tax credits to businesses offering health insurance to their employees and offers insurance through a government-sponsored marketplace.

Last week, during a roundtable meeting with the National Federation of Independent Business at Becker Wholesale Mine Supply, state Sen. Kim Ward (R-39) said the amount of regulations on different industries, coupled with the Affordable care Act, could be hampering job creation across Pennsylvania.

Vic Hensler, the human-resources manager for Becker Wholesale Mine Supply, said he spent most of the last six months reading the 12,000-page Affordable Care Act, attempting to understand how it will affect the company, which employs 25.

“I'm not able to do what I know how to do, which is operate things,” Hensler said. “It's been nothing but conferences, seminars and webinars, and it's costly just to get educated, because we don't have the expertise large corporations have, or the manpower,” Hensler said.

Hensler said the company hired consultants to help bring it into compliance with the Affordable Care Act.

The law does not require businesses with 50 or fewer employees to provide health insurance to its employees, but employees will be able to purchase coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, marketplace in 2014, according to the White House.

An individual marketplace for the self-employed, also will be available, according to the press release.

The act provides tax credits to small businesses offering health insurance to their employees.

In 2014, the Affordable Healthcare Act also will require businesses not offering health insurance and with 50 or more full-time employees to make a shared-responsibility payment if an employee purchases coverage from the SHOP marketplace, according to the release.

Open enrollment in the SHOP and individual marketplaces begin Oct. 1.

Hensler said Becker Wholesale Mine Supply offers its employees health insurance and plans to continue offering coverage.

“We're very fortunate that we can offer what we have here, but it's becoming such a burden to approach,” Hensler said.

Joseph Hart, owner of GDC Fine Jewelry in North Huntingdon, said carrying health insurance is a huge cost to impose on small companies. It is difficult to find coverage at a discounted group rate for companies, such as his, which employs five.

“I'm in favor of providing health care, but at the same time, I'm wary, because the expense could be the death blow to a small company,” Hart said.

“Hopefully there will be some kind of group rate for smaller companies, similar to what big companies carry.”

All of Hart's employees now have insurance through a spouse, and he covers the cost of his own insurance. Finding coverage for himself and possibly his employees could become an expensive and tricky endeavor, he said.

Hart said insurance companies do not guarantee coverage or steady rates for individuals or small companies, unlike larger companies' group plans, which provide coverage for all employees, regardless of their health or pre-existing conditions.

If insurance becomes available to his employees, Hart said, he would have to discuss establishing an employee contribution to cover the costs of their plans. Hart plans to speak with a lawyer or consultant to decide what would be best for the company, he added.

“If this act makes the insurance we're already paying for easier and less expensive, I'd be in favor,” Hart said. “I'm still confused with exactly how it's going to go and what it means to us.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or

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