TUPELO – Nearly 200 business and community leaders from around the region ‘woke up’ with the Affordable Care Act on Friday morning.
The inaugural Wake Up Tupelo and Lee County event hosted by the Community Development Foundation focused on the impact of the health care reform law on businesses large and small with help from Pepper Crutcher, an attorney specializing in Affordable Care Act compliance, Franklin Corporation chief financial officer Jeff Cox and Congressman Alan Nunnelee, R-Miss.
“This law touches everyone in this room, make no mistake about it,” said Wally Davis, North Mississippi Health Services vice president of managed care, who served as moderator.
Companies with more than 50 full-time employees face stiff play-or-pay penalties – $2,000 per employee if they don’t offer health insurance. But figuring out if you fall into the above 50 category isn’t as obvious as you may think, Crutcher said.
“The federal government doesn’t count employees the same way you do,” Crutcher said. The hours worked by part-time employees have to be figured in. Seasonal employees can be excluded but only if they are truly seasonal.
Companies large and small also need to make sure they have properly classified their independent contractors. Because of the way data is collected for the Affordable Care Act to determine if individuals are eligible for subsidies, it could trigger Department of Labor audits.
“If you use independent contractors, make triple-dog sure that’s correct,” Crutcher said.
Cox talked about Houston-based Franklin Corporation’s decision to retain its self-insured plan. Even though Franklin’s plan is considered grandfathered, several things have changed, such as the elimination of lifetime limits, pre-existing conditions and some facets of its wellness plan.
The complex nature of the Affordable Care Act means that health insurance can’t just be something company leaders think about just before open enrollment, he said.
“We’re spending a lot more time thinking about it,” Cox said.
Nunnelee, who would like to see the law repealed, said the uncertainty surrounding the consequences of the Affordable Care Act is stifling to businesses and families around the region.
“Businesses are reluctant to hire and invest capital,” because they can’t anticipate their health care expenses, Nunnelee said.