Business leaders react to healthcare law
by Lindsay Field and Kim Isaza
July 05, 2012 01:36 AM | 4422 views | 10 10 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ashley Eller, 23, of Kennesaw, left, talks with Dr. Alyssa Bowers-Zamani during her visit to Kennesaw OB/GYN, which is part of the WellStar Medical Group. WellStar pays roughly 85 percent of its 12,000 employees’ insurance. <br> Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
Ashley Eller, 23, of Kennesaw, left, talks with Dr. Alyssa Bowers-Zamani during her visit to Kennesaw OB/GYN, which is part of the WellStar Medical Group. WellStar pays roughly 85 percent of its 12,000 employees’ insurance.
Photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
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MARIETTA — Presidents and CEOs from both large and small businesses in Cobb County have mixed feelings on the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 from last week.

The federal court last Thursday decided 5-4 to uphold the provision of the health care law that requires most people to buy health insurance or pay a tax. The law also requires employers who have 50 or more employees to provide coverage or be fined $2,000 per person after the first 30 employees. The fines are set to take effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Reynold Jennings, the CEO of WellStar, said he’s anxious about the law because the “devil is in the details.”

“So many things are covered in a 2,000-page law,” he said.

WellStar employs around 12,000 employees and some of those may have spouses who get insurance through the hospital organization. It pays roughly 85 percent of its employees’ insurance costs.

“We are self-insured, like most large companies are,” he said. “The third party collects the premiums. There is a range of deductibles and each person makes those selections. Like most companies, our employees have been choosing higher-deduction plans to keep their portions lower. Employees are mostly in the $1,000 to $2,000 annual family deductible.”

Infomart in Marietta doesn’t serve nearly as many employees as WellStar but the employer of around 100 does have concerns about the law.

“It is going to require more paperwork, resources and money while changing the employer’s focus from job and business growth to regulation and compliance,” said Infomart President Tammy Cohen.

The business, which opened in 1989 and is located off Terrell Mill Road, pays a portion of their employees’ insurance that has increased over the last five years.

“InfoMart strives to provide our employees with health insurance coverage (employer/employee shared cost). Despite the steady rise in healthcare costs, the company pays for at least 75% of employee health insurance premiums,” said Heather Wright, the director of corporate affairs who’s been with the company for 10 years.

Large businesses aren’t the only ones who are worried about how the law may impact their costs. Smaller businesses that employ fewer than 50 employees and choose to offer insurance may pay higher costs or could be pushed into no longer offering the incentives.

The higher costs are what worry Andy Crowe who owns and operates Velociteach in Kennesaw and said he thinks small businesses like his will “take it on the chin” with the new coverage plan.

“We provide Etna Insurance for our employees. That plan is going up 3 percent, which doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s a level that’s very difficult for us to sustain and we’re struggling already,” he said, adding that the 3 percent increase is a result of a tax increase by the federal government.

Crowe only employs about 26 full-time and part-time employees and contractors and isn’t required to offer his employees insurance coverage but he chooses to do so.

“We’ve gone out of our way to provide insurance for our employees since very, very early in the company so I didn’t really need more oversight or overhead in that regard,” he said referring to the law’s mandates. “We weren’t excited about (the law) from that standpoint. We try to take care of the people who work for us … try to provide good benefits.”

His employees pay a “very small” amount of their premiums and Crowe said the company covers about 90-plus percent of the other costs.

“I think (employees are) appreciative but also they don’t know (how much Velociteach pays) … I don’t come back to them each year and tell them how much we’re paying,” he said. “I’m getting to where I can’t absorb that year after year. If this fixes that problem, that’d be wonderful, but I can’t see how it is fixing the problem.”

On the flip side, Crowe said he does agree that it will be helpful to families who want to continue insuring their children until they are 26.

“The law has enacted some need changes there but I don’t’ think it’s 100 percent bad, but the net outcome will push costs up,” he said.

The cost of insurance has continually increased for Crowe as well.

“It’s been awful. We’ve had some health issues within our company that have exaggerated the cost so it’s gotten to be a real concern,” he said.

Some solutions that Crowe said he’s been talking to other business owners about is the concept of a Professional Employer Organization (PEO).

“It’s something that’s pretty popular now a days,” he said. “You pool your employees together into what becomes a large company. People are doing that because of the insurance and that’s something we’ve considered.”

Crowe said it wouldn’t affect his employees but it’s an option he’s looking into as a way to reduce costs for his company.

Kevin Foley, who has a background in business and is a specialist in electronic public relations solutions, said he believes that the law is “beneficial” for businesses all the way around.

“To attract the right kind of employees, you have to offer competitive benefits. Healthier employees are better employees,” he said. “Georgians in general don’t want to pay taxes but ultimately you’re going to have to pay more taxes to cover the cost of health care. If we want to have a society where people are healthy, you have to do that.”

Dr. Roger Tutterow, a professor of economics at Mercer University and Cobb native, said he’s waiting to see if health care costs increase.

“Most studies would suggest that a lot of medical expenses are related to chronic conditions, lifestyle choices,” he said. “It goes hand in hand in improving the quality of medical care against the expense of providing it.”

As far as what businesses may expect, he thinks they are just searching for clarity in the law and he isn’t sure if the ruling last Thursday did that.

“I think most business leaders would tell you they would have preferred to have seen the health care law struck down,” he said. “There’s a sense that it could raise costs for businesses for employees.”
Comments
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anonymous
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July 23, 2012
I believe the practice name is actually Kennestone OB/GYN
Obama 2012
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July 05, 2012
What this article fails to leave out is that one goals of the Affordable Care Act is to lower the cost of healthcare insurance by reducing the number of uninsured (aka freeloaders) that are a strain on the system. The uninsured are costing the taxpayers and increasing the cost of health insurance. Why all the negativity before the law has a chance to take full effect? Impatience, the desire keep the status quo due to the anxiety of what change will bring? Keeping the unhealthy oppressed? Yes it is possible that these changes could lead to a single payer governement system if the health insurance companies fail but does that mean we do nothing? The republicans had their chance for 8 years and all they could do was add a medicare prescription drug benefit with a donut hole which did nothing to fix the problems the Affordable Care Act attempts to address.
ObamaCanBiteMe
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July 06, 2012
Poor attempt on your part for justifying an over reaching by the already inept Federal government. During the 60s,70s,80s my family never had health insurance and was never consider rich but my parents always managed to pay the family's medical bills. That means through braces, a broken leg, wisdom teeth, knee injuries, multiple trips to doctors/specialist/surgeries for my two sisters (with preexisting conditions) over the years, my parents sacrificed and took responsibility! I say again we were not considered rich! It was only during the mid to late 80s we realized healthcare cost was beginning to exceeded their ability to pay and that can be squarely laid at the feet of the federal government. It was Washington and un-elected bureaucrats that heaped regulation after regulation on our doctors and showed an unwillingness to address the exploding ligation crisis that drove up malpractice insurance. We know this because unlike most, we developed a relationship with our doctors and also kept abreast of the issue by following other sources. Only a moron would believe in keeping the government involved with something as personal as healthcare after witnessing its failed handling of medicaid, medicare and the VA and getting the IRS involved with compliance is shear insanity. Institute real torte reform, restructure medicaid and medicare into one entity and require a minimum copay per visit regardless of income, speed up the drug approval process just for starters.

REPEAL OBAMACARE(sic) AND BOOT HIM FROM OFFICE HE HAS ONLY MADE MATTERS WORSE.
Obama 2012
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July 06, 2012
Nice attempt at not providing an alternative solution to the healthcare problem in the U.S. If you have another solution other than do nothing and complain about others' attempts to solve the problem I'd like to hear it. Your typical republican response that the government should get out of regulating things is unacceptable. That gives crooks and unethical people a field day on taking advantage of peoples healthcare. Mine as well open snake oil clinics.
ObamaCanBiteMe
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July 06, 2012
First off, your wrong in "assuming" I'm republican. I'm Libertarian and darn proud of it. Secondly the last sentence before the "all caps" clearly gives the first areas to address. As for your comment: "Your typical republican response that the government should get out of regulating things is unacceptable.". Yes the government is the problem because its plagued with smug, we know better than you types,that fail and never admit their failings. If an employee does an awful job you fire them. If a tradesman fouls a job up on your home, you fire them. If your mechanic doesn't fix your car right, you fire them. Its only government that rewards failure, promotes ineptness, squanders our tax money "entrusted" to them. My life isn't the governments to meddle with, my children's lives aren't government's to interfere with. Call me what you will, but I practice the "Golden Rule" everyday of my life and refuse to deny anyone else their liberty to make choices for themselves and their loved ones. BTW, the posting by D.G. below is spot on...

Obama 2012
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July 12, 2012
Libertarians need to find their own island where they can legalize drugs and smoke pot all day. Maybe they will do something stupid while high and only hurt/kill themselves and save the rest of us that can afford health insurance higher rates. I can't believe Neal Boortz and other libertarians think legalizing drugs would be good. That's the last thing we need is Boortz koolade drinkers demanding pot at the local snake oil clinic after everything is deregulated.
anonymous
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July 05, 2012
We need a health care bill. The demographics are changing in this country and that is minorities and low income people that are here today are the ones that are mostly uninsured and that the majority race and upper income people pick up the tab for.
Check
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July 05, 2012
Oppose healthcare for poor people - check

Oppose transportation alternatives like rail - check

Oppose the jobs bill - check

Oppose the minimum wage - check

Make sure the poor have a hard time registering to vote - checkmate

Question for Check
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July 05, 2012
While I only agree with you regarding the rail, I do have tto ask why you oppose poor people voting. What are you afraid of? Are you perhaps stuck in 1787?
D.G. in Clarkdale
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July 06, 2012
In a nut shell we are no longer a democracy its more like ==>

(in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) - a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Source: Urban Dictionary
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