BY JOE MARVILLI
Businesses in Queens are preparing for the Affordable Care Act, which will go into effect on Jan. 1.
The healthcare legislation includes provisions meant to give small business owners new options for providing health coverage to their employees. However, the law is also looking to make life easier for small businesses, helping them find affordable insurance.
Several business leaders expressed concern over how the law will impact business, and are looking to get as much information out as possible.
Some of Queens’ Business Improvement Districts are working to make sure their business owners are as knowledgeable about the law as possible, such as a session held by the Flushing BID that drew 200 business owners.
“We will probably host smaller ones for four or five people, so they can have a personal touch. I think that will be a more effective way,” Dian Yu, executive director of the BID, said.
Felicia Tunnah, executive director of the Jamaica BID, agreed, adding that owners could always call the BID with any questions they have.
“I think everyone should get as informed as they can,” she said. “We will help fill in whatever gaps there are in information.”
Rob MacKay, director of public relations, marketing and tourism at the Queens Economic Development Corporation, said the impact of the ACA on local businesses was not yet clear, though some will thrive.
“We don’t know if the local economy has been affected yet, but I have incredible faith in the entrepreneurship of Queens residents,” he said. “I predict that some local residents will find niches within Obamacare as consultants or care providers and create new companies. Watch. It’ll happen.”
Before the ACA, small businesses paid 18 percent more in premiums than large firms for the same benefits package. Premiums for healthcare could also increase drastically if an employee gets cancer or has a heart attack, according to a document given out by U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) during a discussion with small business owners in August.
The document said that businesses with fewer than 50 employees will not have an employer responsibility requirement when that part of the law goes into effect in 2015.
Beginning next year, businesses with fewer than 50 employees will have a sliding scale tax credit to help them afford to offer employee coverage if they have average annual wages of less than $50,000. By gaining the ability to join a large pool through the Small Business Health Options Program, small businesses will be given access to the same affordable coverage that large businesses have today.
In 2015, businesses with 50 or more employees will have a shared responsibility requirement. They will have to offer affordable health coverage and have at least one full-time employee receiving a premium tax credit to avoid a penalty.
The SHOP Marketplace Call Center, a resource to help small businesses get information about the new regulations, is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to answer any questions. It can be reached at 1-800-706-7893. Employers can also visit www.business.usa.gov/healthcare.
“These new provisions in the law will significantly improve the previous market, where small businesses often had difficulty obtaining affordable insurance or predicting their costs,” Crowley said.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.