While small businesses are exempt from penalties for not providing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, small business owners still need to consider the new health care law in decision-making.
That’s why about 100 people showed up Thursday at a forum on the law sponsored by Columbia’s Office of Business Opportunities.
“Businesses with less than 50 employees are sitting pretty,” said Lindsay Anne Thompson, an attorney with Duff, White & Turner in Columbia. They don’t have to provide insurance for their employees, but if they do, they may be eligible for a tax credit through the Small Business Health Options Program.
The panelists explained the basics of the law as it applies to small businesses. The law has a 50-employee threshold for being considered a small business, but the threshold increases to 100 for some provisions in 2016. Businesses with employee levels above those thresholds will be required to offer affordable health insurance to their employees, starting in 2015.
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But if a small business pays more than 50 percent of the cost for its employees’ health insurance premiums, it could be eligible for tax credits of 35 to 50 percent of that cost, said Lisa Hollingsworth of BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina.
Business owners left the meeting at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center with plenty to think about.
“I learned that there are a lot of different options for small business owners,” said Donnie Durant, owner of Columbia-based Receivable Solutions, which has about 40 employees. “It’s important to decide where we’re heading as a company, whether we stay under 50 employees or grow to over 50.
“I don’t think the law is going to help any of my employees. (Health insurance) is still going to be expensive.”
Since most of his employees don’t have health insurance now, any premium will be an added monthly expense. But many of his employees will be eligible for subsidies to reduce those premiums. The law allows tax credits for individuals making from $11,490 to $45,960.
Ronald Taylor of Taylor Brothers Construction Company talked with his insurance agent on Monday, then attended the forum to hear from other sources. As Thompson mentioned in her presentation, the full law is so long and complicated that nobody really knows all of its details and implications. It’s a good idea to ask multiple sources for help, she said.
Taylor knows more now about how it will impact his company’s employees, most of whom drive trucks. Taylor said he would like to offer health insurance, “but premiums are so expensive that people don’t participate.”
He wanted to know if he offered insurance, would that make it harder for his employees to qualify for tax subsidies on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.
“That was the Catch 22 I was interested in,” Taylor said.
Thompson said small business employees can get tax subsidies on Marketplace plans even if they are eligible for an employer-sponsored plan. That’s not the case for full-time employees of large businesses, which are required to provide affordable insurance.
Another free small-business forum is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Oct. 23 at Earlewood Community Center, 1111 Parkside Dr., Columbia. To register, go to https://columbiaaffordable careactforum.eventbrite. com.