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C.O. firms brace for health care reform impacts

Published On: Jan 22 2013 09:01:36 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 22 2013 09:18:29 PM CST

A panel of financial and legal experts met in Bend to address business owners and their questions about the new healthcare reform.

BEND, Ore. -

The new year is bringing some of the first impacts of the new health care reform law, a year ahead of its implementation, and business owners gathered Tuesday in Bend to see what's in store for them.

The Bend Chamber of Commerce hosted a discussion with a panel of financial and legal experts to address business owners' questions about health care reform.

Starting next January, individuals will be required to have health insurance, and larger companies will have to offer it.

"Some of us like (us) have provided health insurance for the 20 years in our company," said Aelea Christofferson. "There's also a small business owner who has never provided health insurance to his employees,"

Christofferson is a small business owner herself, but she also serves on Cover Oregon's board of directors.

"Our design has to be implemented taking the Affordable Care Act rules into our planning," Christofferson said.

Cover Oregon, a health insurance exchange, will be an online marketplace where small business owners can choose a health insurance plan.

The Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010 is the biggest thing to happen to America's health care system, and some answers are just coming into view.

"We are just getting now regulations coming out," said attorney Bruce Howell. "They have been on hold until the election, and then all of a sudden the floodgates opened."

Under the rules that take affect next January, small employers, with up to 50 employees, are not mandated to provide health insurance. However, larger employers will have to offer health coverage.

Everyone, according to the individual mandate, will have to have health insurance or pay a penalty, although enforcement provisions are limited so far. It will be phased in -- from $95 or 1 percent of household income per adult in 2014 to $695 or 2.5 percent of household income in 2016, indexed for inflation thereafter.

While small employers are not required to offer health insurance to their employees, they still can receive some of the new law's benefits ,like a tax credit.

"I have never seen anything in my years as a CPA that is more intensive as the provisions related to the ACA," Evan Dickens told the audience. "It's very important that you consult your CPA or tax adviser about your tax and circumstances."

To help cover those costs, there's also a new Medicare tax imposed on wages, which just took effect -- a .9 percent tax on earned income and a 3.8 percent additional tax on unearned income.

But those tax hikes only affect those making above $250,000 a year, if you are married or filing jointly, $125,000 if you are married and filing separately, and $200,000 if you are single and head of household.

The talk was part of the chamber's Business Success Program, which provides education for people in local business. The next talk is on social media and marketing, on Wednesday, Feb. 13 from 7:30 to 9 a.m.


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