Local Businesses Bracing for Obamacare - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Local Businesses Bracing for Obamacare

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In the convention rooms at the Grand Sierra Resort is where our future jobs will come from: 500 small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs are back for their yearly conference, the Governor's Conference on Small Business. But this time is different. Besides the networking and discussions…they're bracing for Obamacare. Richard Tower, who works for the imaging company SpecTIR LLC, told us, "The discussion here is, this is going to have a tremendous impact. And each business will have to look at it and take the best path forward."

A mere 5 weeks from the beginning of open enrollment on October 1st, the debate goes on over the Affordable Care Act. The reforms put in place by the new law take effect this coming January. They offer some 32 million Americans new access to health insurance. But it will later require companies with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance to those who work 30 hours a week or more. If they don't, they pay a $2,000 "tax," or penalty on each uninsured worker. Among the folks we spoke with, there's great concern about that. Edward Cadena is here representing the U.S. Small Business Administration. He told us, "The Affordable Care Act, it's not a perfect situation at this point."

Some businesses plan to reduce hours to escape the employer mandate, or keep their staffing numbers below 50. Richard Tower's company employs 44 workers. He knows that if they hire just 6 more, they'll be required under law to offer insurance or pay that penalty. He says they won't cut back to escape that, and told us he wasn't just saying that because we asked him on camera.

Colleen Dolan is with the Lionel Sawyer and Collins law firm. Regarding companies trimming to afford Obamacare, she told us, "I haven't had any clients tell me that is their plan, because they would like nothing more than to have their businesses grow to such an extent that they have lots of employees. They're going to be delighted that they passed that cap."

But for others it may be an expensive change. Jon Hager is executive director for the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, the new state agency set up to comply with Obamacare in Nevada. He told us, "There's a lot of confusion out there. We're trying to get the word out to small business to show them what their options are."

Hager has spent a lot of time working to erase that confusion. Come October 1st, the insurance exchange will open its website to individuals for health insurance enrollment. He says they're ready for this massive undertaking. "We've got about 500 people working on this now. It's an incredible project. We start 33 days from today." Are they ready to go? "I think we are, yes."

For businesses, the provision for many of them to offer health insurance or pay the penalty has been delayed until January 1st, 2015. Ed Cadena of the U.S. Small Business Administration told us Obamacare may have a rough start, but he says it will work its way over time. He says Medicare took 10 years to get its act together. He told us, "We're just getting started with this the month after next. My assumption is it won't take us 10 years to get it right this time."

-written by John Potter

Some small businesses will qualify for assistance from a small business health care tax credit if they have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees making an average of about $50,000 a year or less. Eligible small businesses also need to pay at least 50% of their full-time employees' premium costs. If you have questions about getting or providing insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the state's insurance exchange website is up and running:



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